Montserrat Montserrat Volcanic eruption during 1995 and 1997 By Caitlin Cole
The Island Montserrat is a Caribbean island that belongs to Britain. It is around 10 miles long and 7 miles wide with a great 40km length of coastline. Montserrat is about 300miles south east of Puerto Rico and 30miles south west of Antigua. The island used to be inhabited by 12,000 people, however this has now dropped to 5000. The capital of the island is Plymouth however at the moment this is uninhabitable due to the volcano which is the main topic of this PowerPoint. Soufriere Hills Volcano is situated on the south of the Island and has cut of two thirds of its area due to the following eruptions.
What actually happened ? The Soufriere Hills Volcano had been active before the eruption of 1995 for example during 1966 however it had then been dormant for many years and the eruption that occurred during 1995 was the first since around the 17 th century! 1995 On the date of July 18 th 1995 Soufriere Hills volcano suddenly became active. At first only loud rumbling noises could be heard along with a volcanic odour and ashfall. Then by the next day small steam explosions began to occur around that small area of the island causing ash to fall amongst the capital Plymouth. This lead to a large scale eruption which apparently covered some areas of Plymouth in up to 12metres of mud and ash. No one was killed however the entire city had to be evacuated. Small earthquakes and mini eruptions carried on for a number of years.
1997 Following the 1995 eruption, small domes of lava continued to grow. When these collapse volcanic ash and pyroclastic flows are caused. These travel down the hill at fast speeds towards the rest of the island. By December 26th these flows had dangerously increased and the Soufriere hills volcano violently exploded causing a collapse of a large lava dome in the crater of the volcano. This caused avalanches of volcanic debris to fall on the surrounding villages and small tsunamis were created in the surrounding shores. A cloud of ash blanketed and darkened most of the Island. Luckily this killed no one as most had already evacuated the city a few months earlier when a surprise pyroclastic flow had caught the villagers unaware and killed around 18 people (June 1997). This eruption had also destroyed many villages.
At least half of the people on the Island had to leave their homes and be evacuated to other areas or other Islands. Many couldn’t return due to their homes being destroyed or covered in ash. Some were relatives of those lost in the 1997 eruption and therefore lost loved ones. Others jobs could not continue as they were situated in the capital. A huge problem to do with jobs was that Montserrat used to be an extreme tourist area but unfortunately many stopped coming after the volcanic eruptions as they felt it was too dangerous. This lost the country huge amounts of money as most of it had come from tourism. It also meant that many people were put out of jobs and the economy began to suffer.
Many buildings were either destroyed or ruined by ash and Plymouth became a ghost town. Villages became uninhabitable and schools and hospitals were destroyed. This in the long run meant that people had no homes, children had nowhere to be educated and the sick could not easily access a hospital.
Not only were peoples homes destroyed but their food source as well. Farmland became covered in ash and impossible to recover. Months of food resources were wasted and those who relied on food from the farms suddenly had less options.
There were many primary effects of the situation. Some were as said before; 2/3 of the Island being covered in ash, farmland destroyed etc.
However there are some others. For example the airport and the port had to be closed, meaning no trade could be brought in our out, stopping the country receiving food and other items.
Also the evacuated population had to live in makeshift shelters for months until somewhere more reasonable was found.
The pyroclastic flows also created forest fires in some of the surrounding areas causing even more people to be removed from their homes and be forced to live in less comfortable environments.
Floods were also created when valleys became blocked with all of the ash fall on the towns. This meant that trees and buildings were damaged alongside with peoples property.
Finally schools, hospitals and businesses were either destroyed or shut down, some never to be re-opened.
One large secondary effect of the Volcano was that half of the Islands population left and never returned. They didn’t want to live on such a dangerous island and therefore left decided not to come back after being evacuated. This mean that the islands total population reduced from 12000 people to a mere 5000 in about 5 years! This greatly affected the income of the island as a smaller population meant less were working and spending their earnings, so the economy shrunk.
Also another money issue was the fact that Montserrat had lost its tourist industry due to the Island seeming too unsafe for people to holiday there. The only tourists it received were those on boat tours around the shores to see the volcano, and this didn’t really bring in much money. Those living on Montserrat depended on tourists to bring in the main money into the economy and to make jobs for the islands residents to do. However once the tourism stopped so did the jobs and so did the money. It was a large blow to the Islands system and means they are still struggling now to cope with issues of money. As you know, money is needed for almost everything, food, water, electricity, without it these islanders could not survive.
The remaining southern area of the island is now also uninhabitable, therefore any who did live there now have to endure the worse living conditions in the northern area, and they may find it harder to adjust.
Finally a big issue is that the airport and port in the south are still out of use and therefore new ones had to be rebuilt in the North, these are not up to the same standard and do not bring as much food and produce into the country as needed.
Not much could be done to help after the violent eruptions, however the country tried.
They used the aid money from the British government (£41 million) to give to the Islands inhabitants to help them move to other countries without problems. This helped them to start new lives in new homes elsewhere despite the loss of money after the volcano destroyed their homes. Unfortunately this did not impress the villagers and some riots broke out.
Also the Montserrat Volcano Observatory was set up to monitor the volcano, this made it better for the Islands residents as they could be warned about future occurrences. The volcano can also be studied and more details can be found out about it.
The southern part of the Island has also been cornered off to stop people from ever coming into danger and to keep them away in safe areas at all times.
Risk checks and assessments have also been carried out to ensure the Islanders know which areas are at risk and to make future problems easier to deal with.
The Islanders of Montserrat has done everything they can to prevent future issues however their economy is still suffering despite it being 10 years on and now the Island has gone from being classed as reasonably developed to an LEDC due to its money issues.