By Franklyn Michael EDITOR’S NOTE: The people of Monserrat commemorated 25 years since the onset of volcanic activities in July 1995 by implementing a week of activities. The events took place during the week of July 12th to 18th, 2020. The events for the week included a national day of reflection which was held on Wednesday, July 15th, a public holiday. CARICAD’S Programme Specialist Franklyn Michael was Director of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Montserrat and Permanent Secretary of the Emergency Department from 1995 to 1999. Montserrat was then and remains a CARICAD member state. S igns of volcanic activity first occurred during the afternoon and evening of Tuesday, July 18th, 1995 in Montserrat. The signs included loud rumbling noises, strong emissions of sulphurous gases and a light fall of volcanic ash in the southern districts of the small island. The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) was immediately activated. The relevant high-level consultations took place and the Seismic Research Unit (SRU) in Trinidad was contacted. A scientist from the SRU arrived in Montserrat early on Wednesday, July 19th. Visual inspection of the Soufriere Hills (long known as a volcanic area) revealed the appearance of a volcanic vent. The vent incessantly emitted billows of vigorous white steam. That pattern of volcanic activity continued until July 28th when a second vent was discovered. A decision was taken to relocate villagers from the Eastern flanks of the volcano. Activity remained limited to earthquakes, gas emissions and light ashfalls. Monday, August 21st was marked by an unusually heavy ashfall which blanketed the capital town of Plymouth and its environs. The in situ team of scientists recommended the relocation of all residents south of Belham River, to areas north of that line. Subsequently, several smaller vents opened in the same general vicinity of the original vent. The Safe Zone and Evacuated Zones were established to control residential and commercial activity. The dissemination of information via the local radio station, Radio Montserrat, was greatly expanded. Periodic evacuations manged by the EOC, the  Continues on next page 13 A pyroclastic flow on the eastern flanks of the volcano. Royal Montserrat Police and the Defence Force became the pattern because of phreatic (steam, ash and gases) eruptions until massive explosive eruptions culminated in the permanent evacuation of the capital town of Plymouth, and villages in the east, south and central corridor of the island. At one point in time there were more than 1,400 people in Emergency Shelters. There was a frightening eruption on September 17th, 1996. Ironically that was the same date on which there had been a fatal, international, commercial aeroplane crash in the 1960’s and the same date on which Montserrat had been devastated by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. One particularly massive eruption on June 25, 1997 resulted in the deaths of 19 people who were caught in the Evacuated Zones when the eruption took place. That date has been publicly marked since the tragedy. The people of Montserrat had no time to prepare for the initial onset of volcanic events. The disaster challenged the local response capacity and available resources. There was no collective memory or written record of a previous eruptive event in Montserrat.

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