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Volcanic Activity Threatens Two Other Caribbean Islands

July 21, 1995

PLYMOUTH, Montserrat (AP) _ Volcanic activity that brought a long-dormant mountain roaring to life this week is also rumbling under at least two other islands, a Caribbean disaster specialist said Friday.

``We know the same type of activity taking place in Montserrat is happening elsewhere ... St. Kitts and St. Vincent to name two,″ Audrey Mullings of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency told reporters.

Scientists were reviewing data Friday to judge whether a series of earthquakes in Montserrat could presage a major eruption, or whether the buildup of lava that sent sulfur, gas and ash spurting more than 1,000 feet into the air had quieted.

A new eruption of sulfur, gas and ashes mushroomed over mountains in sight of Plymouth on Friday, turning a lush forested slope gray. Scientists had previously reported that volcanic activity had lessened considerably.

Four minor quakes were recorded Thursday, said volcanologist Lloyd Lynch.

Montserrat’s experience was a much-needed lesson for the islands to focus on hazards other than hurricanes, Mullings said.

``We need to use it as a source for adjusting our disaster plans, especially for volcanic disasters,″ she said. ``We are a hurricane-focused region because we expect a hurricane every single year and focus our disaster-preparedness around them.″

Lloyd said most activity has concentrated around vents at Langs, about four miles from Plymouth, the capital of this 11-by-7-mile island.

Langs is about half a mile from Chances Peak, Montserrat’s highest mountain at 3,000 feet, where the island’s first recorded volcanic earthquake erupted Tuesday.

Dr. Bernard Boffong of Montserrat’s Emergency Operations Center said its scientists were trying to determine whether the tremors were caused by lava about to spew or moisture from the first rain in months seeping down to the molten lava to cause the explosions.

``The best-case scenario is that what has happened is it, and that the volcano will go back to sleep,″ he told a news conference.

Local officials and the governor of this British colony continued with contingency plans for a mass evacuation.

The British battleship HMS Southampton arrived off Plymouth on Thursday and its large supply ship sailed in Friday. Commanding Officer Tim Forster said he had a medical team and supplies to feed 1,500 people on shore _ more than one-tenth of the population of about 12,000.

Like many Caribbean islands, Montserrat, St. Kitts and St. Vincent were formed by volcanoes. In 1902, the French island of Martinique suffered one of the worst recorded volcanic calamities when Mount Pelee erupted, killing 30,000 people.

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