Thousands on St Vincent ordered to flee NOW ahead of 'imminent' eruption of La Soufrière volcano

THOUSANDS of people on the Carribean island of St. Vincent have been ordered to flee ahead of an imminent eruption of La Soufrière volcano.

The dome of the volcano, on the northern tip of the island of St. Vincent was spewing smoke and glowing red yesterday, after days of seismic activity.

Evacuation alarms were blaring across the island, while the narrow roads at the base of the volcano were blocked up as locals scrambled to pack the essentials and leave at such short notice.

Latest images of the dome taken before sunset from a summit camera showed the volcano's top glowing.

The dome had reached the height of the crater rim, allowing remaining locals to see a glow overnight from the hot rock.

The risk level of the eruption was raised to “red alert”,  after prime minister Ralph Gonsalves deemed the situation an “emergency”.

“This is an emergency situation, and everyone understands that,” Gonsalves said.

He had been speaking to the governments of neighbouring countries including St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, he said, about the feasibility of them providing temporary shelter to some of the 16,000 that would be displaced.

Two cruise ships were also enroute to help with the evacuation effort, after being diverted from the Royal Caribbean line.

"We are on the way to St. Vincent to evacuate residents at risk from a potential eruption of the island's La Soufriere volcano," the Royal Carribean tweeted.

"We are working closely with local authorities and will provide updates as evacuation efforts continue."

One complication of the evacuation effort was the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said people could be required to be vaccinated against the virus if they went on board a cruise ship or seek temporary refuge in other islands.

There had been four major eruptions of La Soufrière in the past four centuries, the Times reported.

The most devastating of the eruptions was in 1902, when an estimated 1,600 people were killed.

The latest eruption was in 1979 – though there were no reported deaths on this occasion, due to a mass evacuation days before.

Gonsalves had urged people to remain calm and not to panic over the situation.

“That is the worst thing to do,” he said.

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