Government Information Service

The Volcanic Explanation
For The 24 Hour Period Ending 7 AM On Thursday January 16, 1997
A Presentation Of The Government Information Services
In Conjunction With The MVO.

Up until early this morning there had been reduced activity at the Soufriere Hills volcano, however at about 5.30 am further pyroclastic flows occurred.

These events were the largest for some time and travelled all the way down the Tar River Valley to reach the sea. They have subsided again in the last few minutes, however ash clouds reached as high as 20, 000 feet and were blown south and west by prevailing winds. Some ash fell in the Old Towne area and also out to sea.

The base of Tar River at the new delta is steaming and is covered by fresh deposits however low cloud cover this morning is preventing any views of the dome.

Over the last 24 hours the seismic signals have been dominated by rockfalls and over 30 volcano - tectonic earthquakes. These usually signify that magma is trying to reach the surface at shallow depths below the crater. In addition there a few hybrid and long period events also recorded.

The southeastern face of the dome remains unstable and further collapses and pyroclastic flows are expected. If a major dome collapse happens it would probably build up over the course of several hours, and could produce very large pyroclastic flows in the Tar River Valley and ash falls down wind of the volcano. Scientists point out that if the pyroclastic flows are large enough they could be followed by an explosive eruption as happened in mid September.

The alert level remains at ORANGE and the W.H. Bramble Airport remains open. Persons still living in zones A and B particularly are being urged to come out as these areas are extremely dangerous. The Checkpoints into these zones are closed at the time of writing.

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