The UWI Seismic Research Center on April 12 reported a massive explosion at the La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent, the biggest explosive eruption since volcanic activity began on the island last week.
The center said that the volcano “observed a large explosion at approximately 4:15 am( local time) and pyroclastic density currents(flows) have been observed on the flanks of the volcano.”
The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) in St Vincent and the Grenadines also confirmed the collapse of the La Soufriere volcanic dome and the presence of pyroclastic flows along the valleys on the eastern and western coast early on Monday. Pyroclastic flows are dense, fast-moving flows of solidified lava pieces, volcanic ash, and hot gases. They are said to be the most deadly of all volcanic hazards and can destroy everything in their path.
“It’s destroying everything in its path,” Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told The Associated Press. “Anybody who would have not heeded the evacuation, they need to get out immediately.”
The governments of Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis and Dominica have agreed to provide accommodation for thousands of St Vincent nationals.
Some 20,000 people had to be evacuated from the red zone near the volcano. There have been no reports of deaths, but many buildings near the volcano have collapsed.
Other Caribbean countries including Barbados, Guyana, and Jamaica have also agreed to provide relief to St Vincent. The government of Trinidad and Tobago says it will be deploying members of the Defence Force (TTDF) to assist with evacuation efforts.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said in an interview with local station NBC Radio that his government will do everything possible to help those forced to abandon their homes in ash-filled communities.
“It’s a huge operation that is facing us,” he said. “It’s going to be costly, but I don’t want us to penny pinch…this is going to be a long haul.”
Gonsalves said it could take four months for life to go back to normal in St. Vincent.
Scientists say that they expect the eruptions to continue for days or even weeks.
Neighboring islands Barbados and St Lucia will also continue to be affected by the volcanic ash.
The lead scientist monitoring the volcano, Professor Richard Robertson, said the latest explosion is equivalent to the one that occurred in 1902.
“The activity pattern we have currently is more similar to a 1902 type of eruption of that kind of scale, rather than a 1979 scale. The people who lived through 1979 know the kind of eruption we have had,” he said in an interview on NBC Radio.
“What does that mean? It means, unfortunately, that it is likely going to cause more damage and destruction to St. Vincent but it also means that there will always be a safe place in the south of the country, which might have a lot of ash every now and then, but you can still sustain life and limb and it would not — which is what we all worry about — get so big that it destroys the whole country. That’s currently doesn’t seem to be the case.”