The situation at the Soufriere Hills volcano has undergone a significant change since 06:52 this morning (Wednesday 3 April). A small explosive event was recorded at this time, which resulted in a major ash plume, which was carried by the wind to the north of the area. Since then several explosive signals have been recorded, which have resulted in continuous ash emission from the crater area. 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 originated.
The activity continued to build up during the subsequent hours, with many small explosive signals and continuous tremor recorded at the closest seismic station on Chances Peak.
At 15:18, a pyroclastic flow occurred in the Tar River area. Material from this flow travelled down the Tar River valley, to the position where the road crosses the river. Ash from this flow was carried towards Long Ground, but no inhabited areas were affected. The flow generated an ash plume which rose to about 20,000 ft. Much of the ash has been carried to the north of the island by the light and variable winds. A further pyroclastic flow occurred at 18:08, with a second pulse at 18:18.
The scientists believe that this is an extremely serious situation, and that there is a possibility of an explosive eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano during the next few days. Such an eruption could potentially affect much of the south of Montserrat, and scientists urge that the residents of the evacuated zone move to the safe zone tonight (Wednesday). The safe zone remains safe. The extensive ash fall in the north of Montserrat today does not mean that the north of the island is in danger, but is simply a result of the current wind conditions.