About 1,000 people living in the east and south of Montserrat around an increasingly active volcano fled Monday to the island’s north end, where authorities set up tent camps.
Hundreds of cars lined up for gasoline before heading to the northern part of the 7-by-11-mile island formed by ancient volcanoes. The government had urged residents in radio broadcasts to leave their homes.
Caribbean scientists monitoring the volcano with help from French and U.S. volcanologists telephoned the governor and chief minister at 3 a.m. to urge the evacuations “as a precautionary measure,” Chief Minister Reuben Meade said.
Meade also urged the rest of the island’s 10,000 residents in radio broadcasts to pack bags and be ready to go. About 3,500 people live in Plymouth, the British territory’s capital, four miles from the south-central Soufriere Hills volcano.
Many people spent Monday’s public holiday, Emancipation Day, at the beach - but with suitcases in their car trunks and transistor radios at their ears to follow volcano updates.
The government ordered the evacuations after the volcano erupted Friday for the third time since it first roared to life July 18. A series of small quakes have rumbled daily since then.
Friday’s eruption produced the first mud flows as venting steam and ash turned to liquid. Three earthquakes rocked the southern part of the island Saturday, rattling buildings in the capital.
The British government flew in tents, cots and medication last week and set up a tent camp on the northern end of Montserrat.
The neighboring islands of Antigua and Guadeloupe also prepared to receive evacuees.
Montserrat recently has become a tropical hideaway for rock stars and wealthy Americans.