At about 20:43 last night, 31 March 1996, an extended seismic signal began on all stations of the Soufriere Hills volcano network. The signal lasted for nearly one hour and comprised a series of pulses generated by a succession of moderate and large rock-fall events from the eastern flank of the growing lava dome.
Observations of these rock-fall events by residents of Long Ground suggested that they were the largest yet seen from the new dome, and further visual observations by scientists both last night and this morning confirmed the extent of the rock falls and the block and ash flow(s) generated by the largest rock-fall event(s). It is unclear how many individual block and ash flows travelled down the Hot River ghaut, but the longest one reached a distance of about 1 km and caused burning of trees and foliage over a considerable area around the Tar River Soufriere. This flow contained bigger blocks and had a wider-dispersed hot ash cloud than the block and ash flow on Wednesday 27 April.
Ash generated by the rock-falls was blown on the wind towards the west, and very considerable ash fell in Plymouth over an extended period last night. Due to the dry conditions, this ash may be in the air and on the ground for some considerable time.
Residents of Plymouth and surrounding areas are strongly advised to wear dust masks when outside or when cleaning up ash inside. Drivers are warned of potentially hazardous driving conditions due to ash on the roads. Sightseers are strongly advised not to enter the area beyond the Tar River Estate House, which is becoming increasingly dangerous.