Evacuations ordered as St Vincent's volcano set to blow

Clay Curtis
April 9, 2021

Vincentian authorities have ordered an evacuation ahead of an imminent eruption by St. Vincent's active volcano, La Soufriere, which has been effusively erupting but also formed a large lava dome.

On Thursday afternoon, about 20,000 residents to the North of the island, in what has been designated the Red Zone, were evacuated as activity increased in the volcano.

Empty cruise ships were scheduled to arrive at the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent to help transport thousands of people who evacuated their homes under the fiery glow of La Soufriere volcano which officials said could erupt at any moment.

This comes after days of seismic activity recorded in the area and after the volcano had an effusive eruption in late December.

In one of the last episodes for March in the UWI Seismic Research Center's series "La Soufriere Today", lead scientist and geologist, Professor Richard Robertson, said in terms of neighbouring islands, the main thing will be ash.

These gases have been sustained, which is another indication that fresh magma is coming through, Robertson said.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the efforts, and St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told reporters in a news conference that those seeking refuge aboard a cruise ship or another island would have to be vaccinated. And the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has tweeted that residents are being moved to safer locations.

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Robertson said this flow is one of the most unsafe things from a volcano like La Soufriere which is why people are moved off the mountain.

He said the possibility for La Soufriere to get to an explosive phase has "increased significantly".

Forbes said arrangements should be put in place to move elderly people who need to move and NEMO was working with agencies of government and the private sector to have things in place in the event of an evacuation.

Gonsalves added that he highly recommends those who opt to go to a shelter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island chain of more than 100,000 people, be vaccinated. Gonsalves said that several neighboring island nations, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, and St. Lucia, have offered to welcome evacuees.

Many anxious that evacuation efforts would be hampered by the pandemic, with Mr Gonsalves noting that the cruise ships and other islands would require evacuees to be vaccinated.

La Soufrière's most devastating eruption was in 1902 when about 1,600 people were killed.

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