After months of spewing steam and smoke, La Soufrière volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted on 9 April, forcing up to 16,000 people to flee their homes to safety.
A series of further eruptions have been reported in La Soufrière since then, with the latest explosions forcing authorities to cut off local water and power supplies.
The La Soufrière volcano was not entirely unexpected as since December there has been low-level activity on the volcano, indicating that an eruption was imminent. The last time the volcano erupted was in 1979 and previous to that, in 1902.
This latest volcano activity is reportedly spreading clouds of ash for miles, with neighbouring islands, including Barbados, which is 200km away, seeing the sky turn dark at 10am due to clouds of ash.
It is dark like night here in Barbados at 10am as the volcanic ash from Soufriere in St Vincent covers our island.
We send prayers to all on our neighbouring island 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/ldLmEOP6P3
— Animal Flower Cave Barbados (@animalflower246) April 10, 2021
Scientists are warning that the eruptions could last for weeks. When the first eruption happened on Friday, St Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organization tweeted that the volcano was in an “explosive state” with plumes reaching up to 8km.
The country’s Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, ordered the evacuation of the area. In a news conference he was visibly moved as he thanked neighbouring islands for stepping in to take in evacuees. These islands include Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada and Barbados.
“Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, ordered the evacuation of the area.”
“I want to urge all our people to be calm — do not panic […] we will come through this stronger than ever”, said Mr. Gonsalves.
The eruption couldn’t have come at a worst time, with the threat of COVID-19 still rampant. The New York Times reported that Prime Minister Gonsalves said that in order to “board the cruise ships sent to evacuate people from the island, evacuees must be vaccinated”, and other islands taking in evacuees will also require them to be vaccinated first. This has caused some controversy on social media. At time of writing, this rule remains unclear, but St Lucia, one of the islands taking in evacuees has said they will be taking in several hundred evacuees. No vaccination is required but a COVID-19 test will be.
The evacuees will be housed with volunteering local families. Expected time of needed evacuation stay:
— KlimaZen (@KlimaZen) April 10, 2021
The last time La Soufrière erupted in 1979, there was thankfully no fatalities, but the earlier eruption in 1902 killed nearly 1,700 people. Our prayers are with the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
To support the relief efforts, please donate to Help SVG UK if you can.