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Montserrat Volcano Spews Ashes

December 26, 1997

ST. JOHNS, Montserrat (AP) _ With a continuous roar, the Soufriere Hills volcano on this Caribbean island spewed ashes high into the sky early Friday, setting off a show of lightning.

Two days of rumbling preceded the volcano’s ``pyroclastic flow″ _ an eruption of 1,000-degree gas, ash and rocks. The debris settled in a long-abandoned area southwest of the volcano.

The volcano spewed ash 36,000 feet into the sky.

Most of the residents of the British colony have left the island since the volcano began erupting in July 1995. Predicting the eruptions is difficult, and scientists could not say if Friday’s blast was leading up to a bigger one.

``Every few weeks we seem to get some elevated activity,″ said Stephen Sparks, chief scientist at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. ``This seems to be the latest one.″

``The volcano just told everybody it’s still there,″ Sparks said.

Ash from the eruption did not affect the northern part of the 39-square-mile island where the few remaining residents live.

One effect of the eruption may actually be pleasant for residents and vacationers in the northeastern Caribbean.

The U.S. National Weather Service in Puerto Rico said upper-level winds would likely keep the ash from falling to earth, but the hazy skies could result in some spectacular sunsets.

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