SOUFRIERE HILLS VOLCANO
Wayne Fenton  /  AP
The Soufriere Hills volcano sends a cloud of ash skyward after a major explosion at the Caribbean island of Montserrat on Wednesday.
updated 3/3/2004 8:40:15 PM ET 2004-03-04T01:40:15

A major eruption at Montserrat’s volcano sent a massive cloud of ash about 20,000 feet into the sky Wednesday, but no injuries or damage were reported, officials said.

Pyroclastic flows went down the eastern flank of the Soufriere Hills volcano after the 3 p.m. explosion, said Peter Dunkley, director of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

A helicopter was sent around the volcano to gather information, scientists said.

The eruption came more than seven months after a major lava dome collapse July 12. No one was reported injured in the collapse, but volcanic ash settled on the ground up to four inches deep in places and left coatings of grit on surrounding Caribbean islands.

Britain authorized $1.6 million in emergency aid to help the British Caribbean territory recover from the dome collapse.

Montserrat’s volcano sprang to life in 1995, eventually leading more than half the island’s population to move away. Many moved to Britain. An eruption in 1997 killed 19 people and buried the capital, Plymouth.

Scientists monitor the volcano and report any changes to the island’s 4,500 residents, who live in northern areas declared safe.

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