Authorities in the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent have declared a red alert and ordered mandatory evacuations on Thursday, after seismologists warned that the La Soufrière volcano shows signs of an imminent eruption. The evacuation order was issued by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves with immediate effect.
The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines tweeted that there was a “substantial prospect of disaster”, and warned residents to “be ready, get your things in order”.
“Safe areas where people will be evacuated to are from North Union to Kingstown, on the Windward side of the island, Barrouallie to Kingstown on the Leeward side and the Grenadine Islands,” Nemo tweeted.
NEMO also disclosed that a cruise ship from the Royal Caribbean line was heading to the island to evacuate those who live near La Soufrière volcano. Details of how many persons the cruise ship would evacuate or where they would sail to are not clear.
The Prime Minister said in a press conference that “people have to be vaccinated if they go aboard a cruise ship or are granted temporary refuge in other nearby islands.”
“This is an emergency situation, and everybody understands that,” Gonsalves said; adding that, “he highly recommends those who opt to go to a shelter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island chain of more than 100,000 people, be vaccinated.”
Gonsalves said he was talking to other Caribbean governments to accept people’s ID cards if they don’t have a passport.
Meanwhile, all members of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force and Auxiliary Force who are currently on vacation leave were informed that all vacations are cancelled and they are ordered to return to duty immediately.
According to the St. Vincent online News 784, geologist Richard Robertson said that “La Soufrière could erupt in a matter of hours or days.”
Approximately 16,000 people live in the red zone and will need to be evacuated.
A number of videos posted on social media showed a plume of smoke towering above the volcano. On Monday, researchers from the University of the West Indies reported that its monitoring station had detected a “swarm of small volcano-tectonic earthquakes”, which increased steadily in magnitude.
La Soufrière has been increasingly active since November 2020.