Volcanic eruption at St Vincent causes power outage

Volcanic eruption
Volcanic eruption

There has been another “explosive event” at a volcano on the Caribbean island of St Vincent, with power outages and water supplies cut off.

The La Soufrière volcano first erupted on Friday, blanketing the island in a layer of ash and forcing some 16,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Residents in Barbados, nearly 200km (about 124 miles) to the east, have also been urged to stay indoors.

Scientists warn that eruptions could continue for days – or even weeks.

On Sunday, St Vincent’s emergency management organisation Nemo tweeted: “Massive power outage following another explosive event at La Soufriere Volcano. Lightning, thunder and rumblings. Majority of the country out of power and covered in ash.”

White-coloured dust has covered buildings and roads around the island, including in its capital Kingstown.

Nemo is urging residents to “be careful on the roads, which have become treacherous as a result of the ash flow”.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said water supplies to most of the island had been cut off and its airspace closed because of the smoke and thick plumes of volcanic ash moving through the atmosphere.

Mr Gonsalves said thousands of residents had been sleeping in emergency shelters since Friday. “It’s a huge operation that is facing us,” he told NBC News.

The Barbados Defence Force has been deployed to St Vincent to provide humanitarian assistance as part of a disaster response mission, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency said.

Homes across the island, which has a population of around 110,000, have been covered in white-coloured volcanic dust and rock fragments.

It prompted warnings from officials to stay indoors, while emergency groups advised caution for those suffering with respiratory problems.

“Be careful all. We are covered in ash and strong sulphur scents pervade the air. We ask that you take the necessary precautions to remain safe and healthy,” Nemo said.

Meanwhile, on Barbados, Chief Medical Officer Kenneth George advised residents to “stay in your house”. “This is to protect yourselves and your family,” he said.

People on the island of St Lucia, which is around 47 miles north of St Vincent, also shared images of volcanic ash on their vehicles and homes.

Other Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Guyana, have offered to send emergency supplies to St Vincent. They also said they would open their borders to those fleeing the fallout from the eruption.

The volcano had been dormant since 1979, but in late 2020 it started spewing steam and smoke and making rumbling noises.

The first sign that an eruption was imminent came on Thursday evening, when a lava dome became visible on La Soufrière.

Just before 09:00 on Friday (13:00 GMT), seismologists from the University of the West Indies confirmed that an “explosive eruption” was under way.

Evacuees were taken to cruise ships and safer parts of the island.

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