Montserrat volcano prompts evacuation

Plymouth, Montserrat (Reuter) - The authorities ordered the evacuation of the southern part of this tiny British colony yesterday after scientists warned there was a 75 per cent chance the island's rumbling volcano would erupt.

The scientists gave no time estimate but told civil authorities they could no longer assure six hours' notice of a major eruption, Governor Frank Savage said. "On the advice of the scientists, we have evacuated roughly half the island, roughly two-thirds of the population."

He said about 6,000 people from the southern half of the the island, including the entire population of the capital, were told to move to the north coast, where they will be housed in public shelters and tents. Those of the 11,000 residents who are able to leave the island were asked to do so voluntarily to ease the burden on shelters.

Chance's Peak volcano, which last had a major eruption more than 100 years ago, has been spewing ash and hot gases since 18 July.

Tourists and residents jammed the single-runway airport early yesterday after the Chief Minister, Reuben Meade, said chances were increasing the volcano would blow soon. On Monday steam and ash spewed from the mountain, raining debris on the capital.