St Vincent warns of volcanic eruption, orders evacuations

La Soufriere which has been erupting effusively since December can erupt explosively in hours or days

La Soufriere which has been erupting effusively since December can erupt explosively in hours or days

Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves has declared a Stage 3 alert which indicates that there is a substantial prospect that a disaster of the volcanic kind will strike within an applicable period.

Carnival Cruise Line has agreed to send two ships to St. Vincent to support humanitarian efforts to evacuate residents who are under threat from the volcanic eruption of La Soufriere.

The prime minister acknowledged then the challenges of conducting emergency operations during the pandemic but said that strict health protocols - like the obligatory use of masks and social distancing where possible - would be in place during evacuations and in shelters.

Vincent and the Grenadines - A volcano in the southern Caribbean that had been dormant for decades erupted on Friday, spewing clouds of ash and smoke miles into the sky.

At an emergency press conference, Dr. Gonsalves said the decision was based on advice from volcanologist Professor Richard Robertson who said that the situation had deteriorated significantly.

Overnight, hundreds of persons were evacuating by road and sea to shelters, relatives and friends in the safe zone.

He also said that he was talking to Caribbean governments to accept people's ID cards if they don't have a passport.

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He said two Royal Caribbean cruise ships are expected to arrive by Friday and a third one in the coming days, as well as two Carnival cruise ships due to arrive by Friday.

He said that Barbados and St. Lucia are willing to receive evacuees, but they will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. "It was a time I would not want to relive".

The prime minister said that his government has been in contact with friendly nations, including the United States, Cuba, and Venezuela to discuss possible assistance.

This comes after days of seismic activity recorded in the area and after the volcano had an effusive eruption in late December.

However, Robertson said no one can say exactly when that would happen.

The eastern Caribbean is home to other active volcanoes.

La Soufrière's most devastating eruption was in 1902 when about 1,600 people were killed.

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