The island of 'Montserrat' was first created quite a long time ago in
the southern Caribbean. An undersea volcano erupted from the ocean's
floor. The volcano built an undersea mountain that grew higher and
higher, eventually growing above the sea. Some many hundreds of years
later Europeans and their African slaves
colonized this tiny (13 x 8
km) tropical island. They called the high part on the south side of
the island "Soufriére Hills" (sometimes called "North Soufriére Hills"
to distinguish it from the older dead volcano
next to it).
The Soufriére Hills Volcano on the island of Montserrat
Caribbean became active on July 18, 1995. The volcanic eruptions only
started to get worse in August 1995, April 1996 and June 1997.
[IMAGE]The Montserrat irruption in 1995 was probably caused by
subduction. This normally happens when two plates move together. The
denser oceanic crust, in this case the North America plate, sinks
below the lighter continental crust in this case the Caribbean plate.
The oceanic crust sinks into the mantle where it melts in the
subduction zone. The water that was absorbed rises into the overlying
mantle (pyroclastic flow). This water causes the overlying mantle to
melt to form magma.Bubbles of sulphur dioxide, water vapour and carbon
dioxide rise with the magma, growing in size as they approach the
Earth's surface. Like a badly shaken up bottle of coke the gas tends
to want to get out until it pops. When that happens energy is released
as an earthquake and the molten magma may rise upwards causing a
volcanic eruption. The more gas there is, the faster it will force its
way out, and the more likely it will explode when it gets to the
surface. Later the continental crust becomes crumpled into Fold
Primary Effects: The primary effects of the eruption in 1995 were the
loss of 23 human lives, the loss of homes, and the animals to eat had
been killed. The biggest school on the island was destroyed, the only
hospital was gone, along with Plymouth the island's main city
evacuated, most of the industry where there were many jobs to be found
was destroyed. Twenty-six villages and farm plots with their important
crops on were also destroyed. There was also major destruction of the
airport on the east and the port on the west of the island. In short
the economy and long-term development were destroyed. The natural
environment of the island has suffered long-term damage as sulphurous
gases were released into the atmosphere and began to form acid rain.
It burned the vegetation and increased the acidity of lakes and
streams, to such extent that some fish and plankton could not survive.
Secondary Effects: The secondary effects (after effects) of the
eruption in 1995 were things such as the loss of their trade crops
like rice, other materials and also the loss of most of Montserrat's
tourism due to the shutdown of airport and port. The need to rebuild,
reliance mainly relied on aid coming from London all added to the
stress felt by local people.
There were many long-term impacts as the southern two thirds of
Montserrat were declared a danger zone. Many people have since left
the island, most moving to Antigua and Britain. Only about 4,000 of an
original 11,000 residents are still on the island, most of them in the
northern part, and this will carry on to be like this until the
Soufriére Hills are not active.
People who's houses was destroyed and covered with volcanic ash cannot
afford new ones and so have no where to stay. People have had to live
in makeshift shelters with inadequate sanitation until they could
afford another house.
The eruptions have also done damage to the vegetation on Montserrat.
Especially the cloud forest, but also the coastal mangroves and the
coral reefs were affected by the pyroclastic flows, volcanic gases and
ash deposits (not easily replaceable). Vegetation was destroyed by
acid rain, the loss was immense and it will take time for the acid
rain to stop, this also leads to the pollution of the lakes and
streams, which makes animal life almost impossible.
What was done?
Immediately after the eruption the southern part of the island was
evacuated and declared a danger zone. People who wanted to leave the
island were paid £2400 by the British government in compensation, this
was only to each adult over the age of eighteen. The totalling amount
given by the British government was £41 million mainly to redevelop
the north of the island and £10.5 million to relocate refugees to
other countries such as Antigua and Britain.
The British also started to rebuild other parts of the north. Some
fifty houses were built by Brown & Root for immediate occupancy, along
with a new port in the Little Bay (west of the island). The British
were not to sure if they were to rebuild the south as it is not worth
the money involved for only 4,000 people as well as the scientists
saying they could not predict if and when the volcano may erupt again.
Scientists argue further development efforts would be wasted as they
would be wiped out by the next eruption, which would probably destroy
the whole island.