Response to this continuous volcanic activity from July 1995 to July 1999 on Montserrat, one of the lesser Antilles islands in the Caribbean has to be looked at in sequence of events and in terms of short and long term management to be analysed and measured in levels of success. Immediate response and management e.g. evacuation after the first phreatic eruption on the 18th July 1995 was well managed as they took pre-cautions as ‘the preservation of human life is always top priority’ however it is the management of this evacuation in the following volcanic events where the standards decreased as people returned to their homes. Long term management such as the three year development plan funded by the UK was a significant step in Montserrat’s recovery however you can argue that this wasn’t significant enough as it was met with conflict and ‘rioting’.
Short term management has been relatively successful, especially in in August 1995 where 5,000 people were evacuated as a pre-caution after the phreatic eruption of ash and steam in July, troops from the USA and British Navy came to aid this process and emergency aid was given from the UK Government for temporary buildings, schools, clean water, medical services and food. The Montserrat Volcano Observatory was also setup consisting of seven station which advised residents to move North in August 1997, saving lives from the following eruptions.
They monitored the changes in the volcano such as the swelling and deflating of the dome with equipment such as a tilt meter and an extensive 24/7 seismograph network which allowed them to predict the lava dome collapse which happened on the 25th June 1997. This dome collapse created the biggest eruption Montserrat has experienced causing pyroclastic flows, avalanches of gas and rock and a volcanic surge, immediate response was from a helicopter rescue which collected 20 trapped people in the exclusion zone and warning systems including sirens and the radio which encouraged people to move to high ground. This exclusion zone was created in 1995 which were modified as the eruption developed, by July 1997 only 40km2 of the island was considered safe, the rest being an exclusion zone including Plymouth, and this proved successful in August 1997 when Plymouth which was previously a safe zone was destroyed by pyroclastic flows.
Long term management is ever-changing and developing due to the sustainable development plan 2008-2020 with an aim to achieve a sustainable population which so far has proved successful in encouraging immigration which allowed 1,500 people from other Caribbean islands to move to Montserrat and by increasing tourism which Montserrat by creating a new airport and hotels. Along with this sustainable development plan there was a three year development plan funded by the UK which aided the reconstruction and relocation of the capital at Little Bay, houses, schools such as the community college opened in 2005, infrastructure such as the development of Salem, medical services e.g. the large hospital in St Johns which are helping those who experienced health issues such as silicosis and clean water projects which has prevented disease. Plymouth and the whole of the South has been maintained as an exclusion zone as a caution which could be considered successful due to the on-going volcanic activity such as in September 2000. The annual aid budget of £16.4 million from the UK and EU proved essential in 2008-2009 when the residents ‘relied upon’ it.
Despite the success in certain aspects of short term and long term management, there were particular areas which were not so successful. After the prompt evacuation in August and December 1995 the residents of the South were allowed to return putting their lives in danger in January 1996 as two months later pyroclastic flows burst out of the volcano causing the residents to once again evacuate. The exclusion zone was not enforced strictly enough as 19 people were killed on the 25th June 1997 who returned to their homes in the danger zone, this proves that the hazard maps can only be successful if the residents co-operate. The warning systems used throughout these volcanic events such as the sirens were not very useful for those living in the danger zones beyond Plymouth for example Farrels yard. Although the majority of the long term management was successful and significant in the re-development of Montserrat, the £2400 per person was met with riots due to the bad living conditions in the North. One of the main reasons for the death and destruction from these volcanic events is due to the failure of the government to act quicker. Professor Geoff Wadge predicted in the 1990’s the eruption of the Soufriere Hills and advised moving the South’s infrastructure to the North however he could only predict a 1% chance therefore this was not acted upon.
Overall the management and response to this volcanic activity predicted danger, saved lives and is still giving hope to Montserrat’s survival with reconstruction and aid to encourage sustainability. The Montserrat Volcano Observatory were the most successful form of management which put their lives at risk by entering the exclusion zone and examining the crater. Although there was 19 deaths we must take into account the erratic nature of the eruptions and the volcanic surge which was unexpected and could not be predicted before it took place.