Inactive since 1979, the volcano began to show signs of activity in December, rapidly emerging this week.
An explosive eruption rocked La Soufriere volcano on the island of St Vincent in the eastern Caribbean on the following Friday. Mandatory evacuation order from the local government.
The ash column rose about six kilometers (3.7 miles) high and the ash was directed east into the Atlantic.
Inactive since 1979, the volcano showed signs of activity in December, spitting out steam and smoke, and rumbling. That happened this week, prompting the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves to order an evacuation of the surrounding area late on Thursday.
Erouscilla Joseph, director of the West Indies University Seismic Center, said dense ash has also been reported in communities surrounding the volcano.
“More explosions are likely,” she said in a phone interview with the Associated Press and added that it is impossible to predict whether they will be bigger or smaller than the first.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the eruption that occurred four days after the 42nd anniversary of the last major eruption.
– UWISeismic (@uwiseismic) Study April 9, 2021
In the coastal town of Barrouallie, about 14km (nine miles) from the volcano, evacuees trudged toward the shelters carrying backpacks, duffel bags and shopping bags stuffed with personal belongings after the blast. Some prepared to stay there, while others expected to board cruise ships or travel to nearby islands offered to help.
The volcano last erupted on April 13, 1979, and an earlier eruption in 1902 killed about 1,600 people.
The new eruption follows a mandatory evacuation order issued on Thursday for about 16,000 people living in the volcanic red zone in the northern part of the island. About 2,000 people are in 20 shelters the government has opened, Gonsalves said at a press conference.
“We’ve had a problem here and there … but overall, we’re going pretty well,” Gonsalves said. He then wiped his tears and apologized for crying while thanking residents and other governments in the region for opening their home and country to St Vincentians.
He said about 4,500 residents near the volcano were evacuated by boat and land. St Vincent and the Grenadines, located about 160km (99 miles) west of Barbados, have a total population of just over 100,000.
Depending on the damage caused by the explosion, it can take up to four months for things to return to normal, Gonsalves said.