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'Explosive' volcano on St. Vincent erupts after thousands ordered to evacuate

Friday, April 9th 2021, 10:57 am - 'Explosive eruption' underway in St. Vincent with thousands ordered to evacuate the area.

The La Soufriere volcano erupted on St. Vincent early Friday, with plumes of ash spewing above the tropical Caribbean island. According to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC), the "explosive eruption" began at 8:41 a.m.

That was just hours after residents were ordered to evacuate their homes, as the government warned of the imminent eruption.

No deaths or injuries have been reported, but experts say there's the potential for property damage, which could persist for weeks or even months to come.

Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said people living in so-called red zones in the northwest and northeast of the island needed to leave immediately as the volcano pumped out more smoke and steam. Emergency management officials had issued a "red alert" Thursday, after scientists observed the heightened threat with magma on the move close to the surface.

"There is now in the country an evacuation order," Gonsalves said in a message broadcast on social media Thursday.

Cruise ships were also helping to evacuate people, as the volcano's lava dome became visible as darkness fell on the area Thursday night. The nearby islands of Barbados and Antigua, among others, had agreed to take in evacuees. Roughly 5,000 to 6,000 people live in the affected areas.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which has a population of just over 100,000, has not seen volcanic activity since 1979. An eruption by La Soufriere in 1902 killed more than 1,000 people.

2021-04-09T150408Z 1 LYNXMPEH3810M RTROPTP 3 CARIBBEAN-VOLCANO Smoke spews from the glowing dome of the La Soufriere volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, April 8, 2021, in this image obtained from the University of West Indies Seismic Research Center. Courtesy of The UWI Seismic Research Centre/ via REUTERS.

With files from Reuters.

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