An eye witness response from a lucky escapee from the pyroclastic flow that all but destroyed the settlement of Shooters Hill at the mouth of the White River
This is where we lived - on the beautiful tropical island of Montserrat in the Caribbean
The volcano was really warming up; every few minutes a new eruption sent hundreds of thousands of tonnes of ash, rocks, super heated gases and steam into the atmosphere. We just knew we had to get out before the big one struck!
As the air cleared we looked up at the volcano’s dome and saw how the lava plug had grown. Soon this would blow with the force of an atomic bomb - it really was time to go!
We remembered the devastation caused a few days ago when, without warning, ash, debris and gas hurtled down the mountain side at enormous speed. We knew that if we had been in the path of this pyroclastic flow we would have been obliterated by the intense heat - 600 C some say!
the sheer density of the ‘cloud’ bulldozed everything out of its way, crushing houses, destroying the farmland and knocking out communications.
And when the ‘cloud’ had settled the buildings that had not been destroyed were all but covered in ash and boulders. This was in our home town of Shooters Hill, on the right bank of the White River valley that channelled the pyroclastic flow
The next day we could see the path that the pyroclastic flow had taken - half the mountain had been blasted away and a new coastline had been created as the ash and debris rained back to earth
People had witnessed this devastating sight from nearby islands, thankful that they had been spared
And on the news the next day we saw just what the scale of the devastation that hit Shooters Hill was really like
The lava plug had gone and part of the mountain had collapsed
The authorities have given us just two hours to collect what we need and head for the northern tip of the island which had been spared the devastation of the past few weeks
We must decide what to take. We do not know when we will be back, if ever! What will we need?
We know we’ll have to leave behind many things we cherish, but these are desperate times
We are told we will stay in temporary make-shift accommodation with hundreds of other families; there will not be much room, the facilities are bound to be very basic and we will have to make do the best we can
You are to assume you are the head of the family. Your family consists of you and your wife/husband with your children and elderly mother. You are 39, your daughter is just 4 and your son is 12. Grandma is a frail 68. Her husband was killed by the pyroclastic flow just a few days before.
Your home has been all but destroyed and you must act swiftly because further devastating eruptions are due any moment and the next time you may not be so fortunate
You must pack a small van with your belongings salvaged from the rubble, knowing it may be months before you can return.
You have 50 units of space in your van so you will have to make difficult decisions. What will you take with you and what will you leave behind?
You may take more than one of some items but remember to add the extra to your calculations if you do so.
You will need to work as a team and negotiate decisions because you may not all agree at first.
Use the list and make your choices. Each team member will be asked to justify the choices so write down notes in your exercise book.
Item Units Item Units Television 8 Battery radio 2 Bedding for all the family 8 Children’s school books 4 Small gardening tools 4 First aid kit 2 Grandma’s medicine 2 DIY tools 4 Kitchen clock 1 Trousers (each) 1 2-ring gas stove 3 Sleeping mats (each) 2 Skirts (each) 1 20L petrol in can 4 Family’s change of underwear 3 Dust pan and brush 2 cushion 1 Pack of cards ½ Electric kettle 2 Family photo album 2 Kitchen knife ½ Jumpers (each) 2 Floor rug 5 bucket 3 umbrella 2 Tins of food (5 tins) 2 toiletries 2 Box of fresh veg & fruit 4 Gas bottle for stove 4 Fold up chair 6 Cooking foil 1 Camp bed (each) 6 Small watering can 2 Shoes (per pair) 2 Swiss army knife 2 Battery powered torch 1 Batteries (pack of 6) 2 Cosmetics/make-up 2 Mobile phone 2 Cuddly toy 2