BRADES – Scientists at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) confirmed there was a large pyroclastic flow forming event occurred at Soufriere Hills volcano on Friday afternoon around 2:49pm.
The island came to a temporary standstill as everyone took in the sight of the massive ash cloud that exploded but amazingly did not send much ash and no ballistic material into inhabited areas. Several persons remarked that they had not seen an ash cloud that broad since the early days of the volcano’s reawakening in the mid 1990s.
This afternoon’s event Dr. Paul Cole, MVO Director confirmed was similar to the summer 1997 explosion. “A collapsing fountain of tephra, associated with ballistic fragments, was observed at the start of the event on the northeastern side of the volcano. We do not believe that there was major collapse of the dome but significant amount of material was lost.”
Cloud cover around the top of the volcano is inhibiting visibility and scientists are not able to tell if the dome which has been growing rapidly since December has diminished considerably.
According to the MVO statement on the event, “Large pyroclastic flows moved both to the northeast, down towards the old airport, to the northwest down Tyers Ghaut, and into the Belham Valley these flows reached as far as approximately 300 m upstream of the Belham crossing. Pyroclastic flows also moved to the west towards Plymouth, although it is presently unclear whether they actually reached the sea. The event lasted about 11 minutes and seismicity returned to background levels rapidly.”
The Hazard Level is 4. There is no access to Zone C and only daytime access (6:30 am to 5:30 pm) to Zone B.
Additional information on the Soufrière Hills Volcano and the Hazard Level System can be found at the MVO website: http://www.mvo.ms/.