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Thousands flee Caribbean island St Vincent ahead of volcanic eruption


Smoke spews from the glowing dome of the La Soufriere volcano in Saint Vincent last night (Picture: The UWI Seismic Research Centre/ via Reuters)

Thousands of people on the Caribbean island of St Vincent have been ordered to flee amid fears of an imminent volcanic eruption.

Around 16,000 residents in the so-called ‘red zone’ were told they need to leave immediately as La Soufriere volcano spewed steam and smoke.

The warning was issued after the dome of the volcano, in the north of the island, could be seen ‘glowing’ and ‘fiery’ at night.

St Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said there was a ‘substantial prospect of disaster’ following an increase in seismic activity.

Officials are evacuating people who live near the volcano to cruise ships – instructed to take them to nearby islands or shelter zones in St Vincent outside of the danger zone.

But evacuation efforts could be hindered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said people must be vaccinated if they go aboard a cruise ship – or are granted temporary refuge on nearby islands.

Four out of a total of five cruise ships are due to arrive on the island today.

Islands including St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and Antigua have said they are willing to accept evacuees.

Mr Gonsalves said he is in talks with other Caribbean governments about accepting ID cards if individuals do not have a passport.

‘There is now in the country an evacuation order,’ the Prime Minister said.

‘This is an emergency situation, and everybody understands that,’ he added.

The dome of the La Soufriere volcano glowing at night time – amid fears of a ‘substantial prospect of disaster’ (Picture: Reuters)
Smoke spews from La Soufriere volcano – as 16,000 residents of St Vincent are ordered to flee (Picture: Reuters)

The volcano last blew in 1979, with an earlier eruption in 1902 claiming the lives of 1,600 people.

Mount Pelee, on the island of Martinique – north of St Vincent, beyond St Lucia – has also shown increased activity, local media have reported.

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