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St. Vincent Residents Evacuate as La Soufrière Volcano Erupts

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La Soufrière volcano erupted, prompting a mandatory evacuation. Residents in the red zone on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent were told to leave immediately on April 9, 2021.

At 9:08 a.m. EDT (Atlantic Time; GMT-4), St. Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) stated an explosive eruption rocked La Soufrière volcano. An explosive eruption is the tern used when lava is violently and rapidly expelled from a volcano.

Witnesses on the ground posted videos on social media that showed plumes of ash rising.

Emergency management officials confirmed the videos with the statement that said the ash column was about 20,00 feet (6.1 km) above the volcano. The ash is traveling east into the Atlantic Ocean.

Erouscilla Joseph, the University of the West Indies Seismic Center director, stated ashfall was reported in communities close to La Soufrière.

volcanoShe warned that it is impossible to foretell if any potential upcoming explosions would be greater or smaller in magnitude than the first. But, she would not rule out additional explosions.

Seismologists have actively monitored the volcano since late December after the volcano had an effusive eruption; lava steadily flowing out of a volcano onto the ground.

In the last several months, the scientists worked on “analyzing the formation of a new volcanic dome, changes to its crater lake, seismic activity, gas emissions, among other things,” reports The Los Angeles Times.

Disaster Risk Reduction in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (@NEMOSVG) posted a tweet telling everyone in the red zone to leave without delay. Ash has been seen as far away as Argyle International Airport — 11.93 miles (19.2 km).

Roughly 16,000 people are living in the red zone, explains Joseph.

On Thursday, residents were evacuated from the northeast and northwest of the island after scientists advised government officials of increased volcanic activity. At about 3 a.m., their data revealed magma was moving closer to the surface.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves issued the order and urged people to remain calm and orderly.

NEMO also announced the people would be boarded on a cruise ship on its way to the island on Thursday.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises released a joint statement announcing their intent to send ships to evacuate St. Vincent’s residents. The ships would arrive by Thursday evening. The companies also stated they would be adding precautions to ensure the crew and evacuees’ health and safety.

NEMO SVG tweeted an interesting note about today’s eruption:

La Soufrière Volcano erupted on the second Friday in April (Friday, April 13) in 1979. Four days shy of its anniversary it has again erupted on the second Friday in April (9) in 2021.

The eastern Caribbean region is home to 19 live volcanos. Seventeen of them are on 11 islands. The remaining two are underwater near Grenada island, including one that has been active in recent years — the Kick ‘Em Jenny.

In recent years, the region’s most active volcano has been Soufrière Hills in Montserrat, which “are an active, complex stratovolcano with many lava domes forming its summit.” It has erupted continuously since 1995 and destroyed Montserrat’s capital, Plymouth, in 1997.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

NPR: Volcano Erupts On Island Of St. Vincent As Evacuation Ongoing; by Vanessa Romo and Scott Neuman
The Los Angeles Times: Explosive eruption rocks volcano on Caribbean’s St. Vincent; by Danica Coto

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of David Stanley’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Dave Brown’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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