Soufrière Hills Volcano Case Study

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  • Created by: Fiona
  • Created on: 14-05-13 20:52


The Soufrière Hills volcano is found in the south of Montserrat, in the Caribbean Sea

it is a composite volcano so has andesitic lava

A destructive plate boundary is involved, where the North American plate is subducted under the Caribbean Plate

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From 1995 - 1997, there were earthquakes, small eruptions and lahars

On 25th June 1997 there was a series of small earthquakes and this was followed by pyroclastic flows

As part of the eruption, 4.5 million m3 of material was erupted in 20 minutes, pyroclastic flows came within 20 metres of the airport 5.5km away and a large ash cloud formed

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Impacts - Social

19 were killed

7 were injured

8,000 of the 12,000 inhabitants of the island have now left, with 4,000 of them going to the UK (Montserrat is an overseas territory of the UK)

Fires destroyed many important buildings such as local government offices

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Impacts - Economic

The loss caused by the eruption cost £1 billion

20 villages and 2/3 of all homes were destroyed by the pyroclastic flow

It acted to discourage tourists, which damaged further the economy

Businesses were damaged - it is reported the economy in Montserrat is now effectively halted

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Impacts - Environmental

The capital, Plymouth, was buried under 12m of mud and ash

Vegetation and farmland were destroyed

The ash improved the soil fertility

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From 1995 an evacuation to the safe northern side of the island began

Shelters and temporary infrastructure were built to cope with the evacuees

The UK gave £17 million in emergency aid and £42 million in long term aid, which was used to help develop the north side of the island

Local emergency services were key in the search for and the rescue of survivors

A risk map was created and an exclusion zone was put in place

Montserrat Volcano Observatory was set up - they are involved in monitoring, researching, communicating, educating and advertising

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Response Problems

Scientists had studied the volcano in the 1980s but the report had been largely ignored

There was no disaster management plan and this meant that the response was slow

In the 1990s key infrastructure had been built in risk area in the south side of the island so it was destroyed when the volcano erupted, making it even harder for effective responses

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