Volcano eruption in Caribbean prompts mass evacuation during popular vacation week

La Soufriere which has been erupting effusively since December can erupt explosively in hours or days

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.

However, at about 3 am on Thursday, there was another significant change in seismicity, where the station closest to the volcano began recording low-level tremors, he said. "There is no further warning we expect and therefore to guarantee safety of people ... it is best to take certain decisions", Professor Richard Robertson of the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre said via Zoom at an emergency press conference this afternoon.

The earliest period that shows there can be an explosive eruption is NOW, the next few hours or days, Robertson says pointing out that the volcano could return to normal as well.

It followed what he described as a heightened period of activity at the volcano.

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.

Premier David Burt today said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of St. Vincent & The Grenadines as they face the possible eruption of the volcano La Soufriere".

However, Robertson said no one can say exactly when that would happen.

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"I committed to him that Guyana, upon receiving the full list of their needs, would immediately put together a national response to supply the items and arrange for them to be shipped to St. Vincent and the Grenadines", Dr. Ali said.

Gonsalves said he has already been in contact with the prime ministers of Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda about the repatriation of an estimated 20,000 nationals of those country, who are living and working in St Vincent, should the need arise.

Emergency management teams have been going out to communities in the red zone and providing transportation to safer locations, including prearranged shelters, according to Joseph.

It has also been confirmed by NEMO in a tweet that a Royal Caribbean cruise ship is arriving tonight to help with evacuations.

The volcano last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people.

Mr 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.

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