More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 24

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, edited extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More thrills than skills: A half-life in journalism’, is being scheduled for publication next year.

DOWN the road, this is all beyond the pool man. He’s just registered to evacuate to Britain and take the British government’s package for evacuees.

Soufriere had emitted steam, ash, red hot rocks and a mixture of superheated chemicals and liquefied rock.

This was not a lava volcano. This deadly mixture was known as a ‘pyroclastic flow’.

At first, it was difficult to get your brain and elocution around ‘pyroclastic’ but T-shirts bearing the message were everywhere ($10 US) and even the smallest of local children talked with authority about its awesome danger when it swept down the mountain at speeds of up to 120mph at over 1,000 degrees centigrade.

When the mountain became angry, these flows swept down its steep slopes filling the valleys, or ghauts, as they are known locally, and sweep away everything in their path.

A 50 foot-high water tower – full of water – was swept downhill hundreds of yards by such a flow. Whole villages and urban areas, including the capital, Plymouth, had to be abandoned in the face of the onslaught and are now eerie, deserted ghost towns like some long-abandoned film set.