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Wednesday, November 5, 1997 Published at 11:07 GMT

Despatches: Americas
Malcolm Brabant
From Montserrat

An estimated 100 people living in the danger zone on the volcanic island of Montserrat have been given three days to move out. The Caribbean island's British Governor says they will face fines of more than US$180 (£100) if they fail to comply. The move comes as the volcano appears to be preparing for a major explosion. From Miami, Malcolm Brabant reports:

The island's new Governor, Tony Abbott, says he is determined that the Soufriere Hills volcano will not claim another life. But many of the 100 people still living in the danger zone refuse to abandon their homes because they claim the shelters are still overflowing, despite British promises to speed up the construction of emergency housing. Although scientists say that a major explosion remains a real worry, the residents believe they are far enough away from the volcano to escape the avalanches of molten rock and the accompanying surges of scalding hot gas. In June, 19 people were burned alive in the most violent eruption of the past two years. But despite the new tough line being taken by the authorities, those remaining on the wrong side of the barricades will not be forcibly removed, neither will the authorities cut off their water or electricity supplies because some vital installations are still in the danger zone. They include the main police station, which houses three prisoners allegedly caught looting in the abandoned capital, Plymouth. The police say they came from a neighbouring island and were arrested as they made their getaway by boat at the end of what was clearly a disastrous expedition. A police source said they broke into a bank that was empty, they took a set of useless guns from a police station, but they did manage to steal some shoes, which were recovered during the seaborne interception.

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