A volcano in the southern Caribbean that had been dormant for decades erupted on Friday (9), expelling clouds of ash for several kilometers and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents.
Known as La Soufrière, the volcano is located north of São Vicente, the main island of the São Vicente archipelago and the Grenadines, and started showing signs of activity at the end of December . So the population of around 95,000 on the main island lived for months with the possibility of an eruption.
It occurred last Friday morning when La Soufrière went into an “explosive state”, according to the National Emergency Management Organization in a post on social networks.
According to the agency, ash from the volcano reached the country’s international airport, more than 19 kilometers away, and a cloud generated by the eruption spread across the Atlantic Ocean.
Videos posted on social media show streets in a town in the north of the island, covered in ash, with overcast skies and people wearing masks while walking with their belongings. To date, no injuries have been reported and the extent of the damage caused is still unclear.
The threat of an impending eruption prompted the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, to order an evacuation of areas near the volcano on Thursday evening (8).
Cruise ships have been hijacked to help evacuate residents. As of Friday morning, around 20,000 people were evicted from the area around the volcano, officials said.
Covid-19, however, can complicate evacuation efforts and shelter logistics due to possible overcrowding. Neighboring islands such as Antigua, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Dominica have offered help receiving the evacuees, but Gonsalves said only those who were vaccinated could board the ships.
The Prime Minister also recommended that people arriving in shelters in São Vicente be vaccinated. To reduce the risk of infection among the elderly, who are among the group most at risk of contracting the disease, the government wants to distribute them in small guesthouses. “We don’t want a Covid epidemic in the shelters.”
Richard Robertson, professor of geology at the University of the West Indies, said Friday that more explosions are possible and stressed that “the first is not necessarily the biggest explosion”. Scientists say the rash can last for days or even weeks.
The archipelago of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which has just over 110,000 inhabitants, has not witnessed volcanic activity since 1979, when the volcano ashed thousands of meters away, although he did not kill anybody thanks to the evacuation of the inhabitants towards the beaches. Locations.
The largest and deadliest eruption in the archipelago occurred in 1902 and killed around 1,600 people.