St Vincent warns of volcanic eruption, orders evacuations

Officials on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent say a major eruption is imminent and have ordered mandatory evacuations for those who live near the La Soufrière volcano.

St Vincent warns of volcanic eruption, orders evacuations Photo

Authorities in the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent say they believe an active volcano is in danger of erupting and have ordered mandatory evacuations

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Authorities on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent said Thursday they believe an active volcano is in danger of erupting and have ordered mandatory evacuations.

The islands emergency management office switched the alert level to red and said a Royal Caribbean cruise ship will arrive after nightfall to evacuate those who live near La Soufriere volcano. Others will be taken to shelters elsewhere in St. Vincent that are outside the danger zone.

Roughly 16,000 people live in the red zone and will need to be evacuated, Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told The Associated Press.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves 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.

Gonsalves added 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.

Joseph said emergency management teams have been going out to communities in the red zone and providing transportation to safer locations, including prearranged shelters.

“They know who doesnt have transportation because all of this has been canvassed before,” she said, adding that those who board the cruise ship would not be taken elsewhere but would remain there for an unspecified period of time.

Government officials tweeted that the dome of the volcano located on the island’s northern region could be seen glowing by nightfall. The alert issued Wednesday evening follows days of seismic activity around La Soufriere.

Scientists alerted the government about a possible eruption after noting a specific type of seismic activity at 3 a.m. on Thursday that indicated “magma was on the move close to the surface," Joseph said.

“Things are escalating pretty quickly,” she said of the volcanic activity, adding that it was impossible to provide an exact forecast of what might happen in the next few hours or days.

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