The situation at the Soufriere Hills volcano has undergone a significant change since 06:52 this morning (3 April). A signal which is thought to have represented a small explosion started a period of near-continuous seismic activity and ash emission which is still continuing up to the present. A helicopter flight at 11:15 this morning revealed the existence of a fissure on the eastern flank of the lava dome where the recent rock falls had been originating. Most of today's ash is not necessarily associated with rock falls but is issuing from the area of the fissure. The ash continues to drift towards the north because of the wind direction. An ash cloud generated at 12:04 this afternoon grew very quickly to a height of 6,000 to 7,000 feet and is thought to have a significant vertical explosive component. These current events represent a new development in the volcanic activity at the Soufriere Hills volcano, and scientists are of the opinion that it may lead to a phase of explosive activity within a few days.
An evacuation of the south of the island is now in progress, expected to be completed by nightfall tonight. The volcano has continued to be active this afternoon, with several more explosive events and continuous ash emission.
We'll try to keep you updated as the situation develops.