Explosive eruption follows yesterday’s order for 100,000 residents in the southern Caribbean to evacuate due to the ‘significant increase in the risk of an eruption.’
La Soufrière volcano, located on the northern tip of the main island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, started showing signs of renewed activity in late December. But this morning it moved into an “explosive state” (gobernment speak for “it erupted”), the National Emergency Management Organization said in a Twitter posting.
The volcano spewed ash and lava in a dramatic event that followed a declaration of disaster in the Caribbean nation. The “explosive eruption” began at 8:41 a.m. today, according to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC).
The ash column rose more than 20,000 feet (6 km) into the sky, with the majority of the ash headed northeast into the Atlantic Ocean.
Even so, heavy ashfall was reported in communities around the volcano and beyond, and some evacuations were limited by poor visibility.
Islands including Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada prepared for light ashfall as the 4,003-foot (1,220-meter) volcano continued to rumble.
The center had warned about alarming seismic activity at the volcano only a day prior. “All persons in the Red Zone are asked to evacuate immediately!” St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) said in a statement on Friday morning.
Yesterday, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, ordered people living in so-called red zones in the northwest and northeast of the island to leave immediately as the volcano pumped out more smoke and steam.
“There is now in the country an evacuation order,” he said in a message broadcast on social media.
Today, Gonsalves said that Antigua, Grenada and Dominica will be ready by Sunday or Monday to receive evacuees.
Cecilia Jewett, 72, said she suffered through the 1979 eruption and recalled the scenes of panic and the desperate scramble for water, the sky darkened by ash and the overpowering stench of sulfur, said an article in The New York Times. She added that her father had experienced the deadly 1902 event, and told stories of victims buried in ash, and corpses lying in the streets.
“Those stories come back to my mind on hearing that the La Soufrière was acting up,” she recalled. “It’s just too much. These young people would not understand. They think it’s just an explosion.”
“The sulfur, what it does to your eyes, your breathing, your very existence,” she continued. “It was a time I would not want to relive.”
Authorities reported a second, smaller explosion on Friday afternoon.
Thanks to Laurel and Benjamin Napier for these links