Volcanic Management in Montserrat

Montserrat belongs to the Lesser Antilles island chain; a series of volcanic islands formed by subduction of the North American plate beneath the Caribbean plate.

The island of Montserrat was formed by the Soufriere Hills volcano. The eruption stated in July 1995, and before 2005 had spewed out nearly 0.5km^3 of magma.

The potential hazard on Montserrat was fairly low- although the impacts on the population were huge, it was a small population, and they are still well equipped for evacuations if the situation becomes worse. However, the vulnerability was high due to the small area of the island available for people to move out to before any international evacuations could be planned.


The main causes of hazards have been pyroclastic flows, tephra falls, debris avalanches and occasional lava flows.

In 1997, 19 people were killed when they returned to their homes in Plymouth, which they had been evacuated from previously.

The entire southern side of the island had a thick layer of ash on top of it, such that many of the plants were entirely covered.

Many people emigrated from the island after the initial evacuation. Many of these people permanently moved to the UK, the USA or other nearby islands. The initial population was 10,728 in 1990, which had decreased down to just 6,409  people in 2000.

Outmigration had a huge impact on the country. The loss of people meant there was a lack of workers, and thus many businesses suffered huge losses. The lack of customers had a similar effect. The sense of community was lost and many were disheartened at the loss of old friends or acquaintances. A disproportionate number of those who left were the more educated citizens, leaving a less skilled population behind.

The eruption itself crippled the economy. The ash destroyed much of the farmland. The destroyed land also reduced tourism hugely – and tourism was a huge factor in the economy, to which 40,000 visitors were drawn annually.

2/3 of the island is uninhabitable.

The roughly 6500 people living in the south lost everything but what they could pack in their rucksacks quickly.

Many who evacuated north had only low quality accommodation available. Often people would be packed into small rooms with bunk beds and people they had not met before, with 6 bedrooms in a house. There was frequently little or no sanitation, and no electricity or gas available.


The people living in the southern half of the island were evacuated northwards. This plan backfired somewhat as half the population emigrated overseas that had been displaced.

The infrastructure is being rebuilt. A new airport has been completed.

The UK and EU have spent about £200 million on regeneration projects.

Since 1995, scientists have started carefully monitoring the volcano, and updating the public on any changes, and, where possible, warning people as to what impacts there were likely to be. Thanks to measurements of seismic activity, volcanic gases and ground deformation, they have warned people early of pyroclastic flows and allowed preparations so people could evacuate.


Refugees and Italian Earthquakes

The earthquake struck on 24th August, 2016 at 3:36. It scored magnitude 6.2, with an epicentre close to Accumoli, with a depth of only 4km. 298 people were killed. There have been at least 2500 aftershocks, some of which, along with the initial quake, have been felt throughout most of Italy.

The Apennines are a very seismically active area, with many small faultlines. The faults involved recently in quakes have been SW-dipping faults.

Tourism to the rural area swelled the number of people around the area who could be affected by the earthquake. As such, 3 Brits and 11 Romanian people were killed by the earthquake.

At least 365 people had to be hospitalised, though many others had more minor injuries. 238 people were pulled out of rubble. A town near the epicentre, Amatrice, according to its mayor “is not here anymore”. Many cultural heritage sites have been lost- to the extent that structural tests were done on the Coliseum, on the other side of the country, 100km away. Dozens of people were killed in Rome, despite the distance from the epicentre.

Approximately 2,100 people went to emergency camps. 4,400 were involved in search and rescue with 70 teams with rescue dogs.

Italy has well developed emergency services which mobilised 6,600 rescue people overall. Rescue workers asked locals to turn off wifi passwords to help teams (and those needing assistance!) to communicate more easily.

A man trying to loot an empty home was arrested at one point.

A state funeral was held with coffins for 38 victims from Amatrice, including 2 children. The funeral was meant to be held in Reiti, 35 miles away, but local people protested, saying it had to be held locally, putting additional immediate strain onto builders and organisers, who were already struggling with organising basic needs. Another was held in the Marche region, nearby.

The Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has pledged 50 million euros in funds for rebuilding.


In Pescara del Tronto, five asylum seekers helped out. Amadou Jallow from Gambia was one of them, and he said they had “to give back to Italian people for the good things that they have done for us”.

35 refugees and asylum seekers in Ascoli Peceno were shocked by the earthquake but started clearing rubble away quickly. A group of 70 refugees pooled their 2 euros a day allowance and made a donation of nearly 200 euros to earthquake victims- the footage they saw reminded them of the places they had fled from.

Italy generally has a very xenophobic attitude towards those of Muslim heritage- to the extent that in some schools refugee children are made to use different bathrooms to the others, due to “hygiene concerns” despite the children being perfectly healthy. Some of the intolerance is understandable:

  •  Since 2014, 400,000 refugees have arrived in Italy
  • Not all of them have enough housing
  • Not all can access schooling
  • Some politicians said the funding spent on refugees should have been spent on helping refugee victims instead.
  • Some victims think it better to be living in a migrant centre than the earthquake victim camps.
  • The emotional strain of the earthquake is going to put people on edge about any issues they encounter.

Any help the refugees gave was entirely from them understanding how stressful the situation was and genuinely wanting to help people in need; no one was trusting them enough to think they’d do anything to help.

Most don’t care about the prejudices- they’re grateful to live somewhere safe at last, and want to give back to their new communities. Some other examples of refugee community work:

  • Syrian teenagers in Seattle volunteering to help the homeless with basic necessities
  • A Syrian refugee setting up meal stations to give homeless people food in Berlin
  • Another Syrian refugee mobilising the refugee community to help in flooding in the British town they are living in.

Earthquake Proofing Controversy

Rieti was meant to have rebuilt many of its buildings after an earthquake in 1974 to improve earthquake resistance; however, an entire family was killed that sheltered within a church during the movement. A primary school in Amatrice was levelled- after 700,000 euros were spent in 2013 on “renovating” it; tests of the school’s permits shows that anti-seismic measures were faked, possibly by the mafia.

The Amatrice bell tower had been recently restored before the quake, but fell, and crushed a family of four.


Finnish Baby Boxes

Before 1938, Finland had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the Western world, with 65/1,000 children . In 1938 the government decided to respond to this by starting to give out baby boxes to expectant mothers. Only the poorer mothers (about 60%) were allowed the box then. It was intended to give all children an equal start.

In 1938, the box contained bathing supplies, cloth for making clothes ( most women at the time having plenty of experience clothing), toys, reusable nappies and a mattress. The mattress could be used to turn the box into a cot. At the time there were with parents making The baby in the bed as them. Having the box for the to sleep in helped injuries sleeping babies. The mortality dramatically fell even in 1938.

During WWII, finer cloths like plain weave cotton and flannel were needed for the Defence Ministry, so some mothers got paper bed sheets and swaddling cloth. Even though many families were made homeless by bombing they were still able to look after their  infants as the boxes were still provided.

In 1949, all mothers became eligible to the scheme, not just the poorest. This was when the legislation about visiting clinics was introduced. Not only did this ensure mothers had the necessary supplies to look after newborns, but ensured that the mother and child’s health were both being looked after by a doctor.

In the 50s, cloths started to be replaced by ready made baby clothes, which further helped time-pushed mothers. In 1957 they were completely replaced.

In 1968 a sleeping bag was introduced along with disposable nappies.

In 2006, cloth nappies replaced disposable ones again, due to environmental concern. Bottles and dummies have also been removed over time to encourage breast feeding, which is better both for the mother and the baby. The picture book included is to help encourage parents to get their children reading from a young age, as well as to occupy potentially noisy small children.

Mothers have a choice between taking the box or a cash grant. The grant is worth 140 Euros. 95% opt for the box as the contents are considerably more valuable. Some mothers will opt for the box for the first child and reuse its contents for a second child and take the cash grant afterwards. Mothers are only eligible for the box if they head to a clinic within the first 4 months of their pregnancy to check the health of the baby.

Mothers can become very excited to get their box as it’s almost a rite of passage to becoming a mum. It is particularly helpful to new mothers who may not know what they will need and will not know so well how to make the free time (admittedly a small amount of time with a newborn) to buy supplies otherwise. Some families would not be able to afford the baby supplies otherwise. Finnish mothers are the happiest in the world- possibly because they don’t have to panic over getting all the supplies, or because they have significant support with raising their children.

The age of a box can be identified by the clothing it contains. The government selects a new assortment of clothes each year.

Finland now has a very low infant mortality rate of around 2/1000 children.

The box now contains:

  • Mattress
  • Mattress cover
  • Undersheet
  • Duvet cover
  • Blanket
  • Sleeping bag or Quilt
  • Cot (ie the box itself)
  • Clothes for outdoor cold weather
  • Socks, hat and balaclava
  • Various assortments of gender-neutrally coloured baby clothes
  • Bath Towel
  • Nail Scissors
  • Hair Brush
  • Tooth brush
  • Bath Thermometer,
  • Nappy Cream
  • Wash cloth
  • Reusable nappies
  • Muslin cloth squares
  • Picture book
  • Teething toy
  • (For the parents) Bra pads and condoms.