KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – A “huge explosion” occurred Monday morning on the island of St. Vincent where La Soufrière volcano has been erupting since late last week.
Experts from the National Emergency Management Organisation, or NEMO St. Vincent and the Grenadines reported that the blast was visible on radar as tons of ash and hot gasses exploded into the sky at around 4:15 a.m. The blast also sent a pyroclastic flow down the southwest side of the volcano.
“It’s destroying everything in its path,” Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told The Associated Press in an interview. “Anybody who would have not heeded the evacuation, they need to get out immediately.”
Government officials have ordered the evacuation of around 16,000 island residents. However, it is undetermined at this time how many have heeded the warnings. It’s possible several dozen people have stayed behind.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has urged residents to take advantage of help and leave the island.
“It is over time for you to leave,” he said. “It is dangerous.”
Gonsalves told NBC Radio on Sunday that his government will do everything possible to help those forced to abandon their homes in ash-filled communities.
Food and water supplies are threatened due to falling, toxic ash. Supplies from nearby nations have arrived to St. Vincent for those unable or unwilling to evacuate. Four empty cruise ships have been floating nearby to take residents to neighboring islands like Antigua and Grenada.
In a Monday morning post, hours after the early morning explosion, NEMO warned that the volcano “continues to erupt explosively.”
“Explosions and accompanying ashfall, of similar or larger magnitude, are likely to continue to occur over the next few days,” Nemo wrote. “#Beware”
Richard Robertson, with the seismic research center, told local station NBC Radio that the volcano’s old and new dome have been destroyed and that a new crater has been created. He said that the pyroclastic flows would have razed everything in their way.
According to Tim Fitzsimmons’ article, the eastern Caribbean has 19 live volcanoes, 17 of those located on 11 islands. The remaining two are located underwater near Grenada, including one called Kick ’Em Jenny that has been active in recent years. The most active volcano of all is Soufriere Hills in Montserrat, which has erupted continuously since 1995, destroying the capital of Plymouth and killing at least 19 people in 1997.