March 21, 2000
Montserrat's volcano hurls rocks, 30,000-foot ash cloud

                   ST. JOHN'S, Montserrat (AP) -- Montserrat's newly revived volcano hurled
                   glowing rocks high into the sky, triggered fiery avalanches and shot a
                   thundering ash cloud as high as 30,000 feet, scientists said Tuesday.

                   The explosion Monday night sent volcanic boulders crashing over the spot
                   where Britain's Prince Andrew stood on the Belham Valley Bridge during a
                   visit to the British Caribbean island last week.

                   It was the largest since the Soufriere Hills volcano began belching out new
                   rock in November after a six-month silence that had scientists predicting an
                   end to four years of eruptions.

                   The explosion sent a new coat of ash over parts of the island's northern "safe
                   zone," where residents have been living since the volcano began erupting in
                   1995. Since then, 7,000 of the 11,000 residents have left for Britain and other
                   Caribbean islands.

                   In 1997, a massive explosion killed 19 people who had ventured into the
                   danger zone.

                   "There were loud noises and thunder, glowing rocks flying in the air," Chelston
                   Lee, a spokesman for the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, said today.

                   Scientists said the explosion confirmed their prediction that the new buildup of
                   rock would spawn a new series of explosions.

                   They said heavy rains triggered the collapse of the new lava dome, with hours
                   of avalanches shooting down the eastern flanks of the volcano Monday
                   afternoon. Later that night an explosion shot glowing rocks hundreds of feet
                   into the air.

                   An ash cloud rose to 30,000 feet, creating lightning and thunder and forcing air
                   traffic controllers to divert airplanes around the island, Lee said.

                   Mudslides rushed over the Belham Valley bridge.

                   Last year, scientists said the volcano had stopped erupting for the first time
                   since roaring to life in July 1995. Residents were allowed to return to part of
                   the evacuated area, although the devastated capital of Plymouth remains

                   But after two small explosions in early November, helicopter flights showed
                   the volcano was spewing out lava again at the rate of four to seven cubic
                   yards -- about the size of a refrigerator -- every second.

                    Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.