Saint Vincent warns of volcano eruption risk, orders evacuations

KINGSTOWN (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – Residents of northern areas on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent have been ordered to evacuate homes due to a significant increase in the risk of an eruption at the La Soufriere volcano, the government said on Thursday (April 8).

Mr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said people living in so-called red zones in the north-west and north-east of the island needed to leave immediately as the volcano pumped out more smoke and steam.

“There is now in the country an evacuation order,” Mr Gonsalves said in a message broadcast on social media.

Mr Gonsalves said Royal Caribbean Cruises had offered three ships to help with the evacuation and that the first two would be arriving Friday morning. Carnival Corp. has also offered assistance.

Saint Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation (Nemo) said on Twitter there was now a “substantial prospect of disaster” due to the pick-up in La Soufriere’s seismic activity.

The “glowing, fiery appearance” of the volcano’s lava dome would become visible as darkness fell on the area, Nemo said.

Late Thursday, the agency urged residents in the area “to get to the Chateaubelair Jetty immediately” to prepare for evacuation.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which has a population of just over 100,000, has not seen volcanic activity since 1979.

But at that time, there were no casualties due to advance warning.

An eruption by La Soufriere in 1902 killed more than 1,000 people.

Local media have in recent days also reported increased activity from Mount Pelee on the island of Martinique, which lies to the north of Saint Vincent beyond Saint Lucia.

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