St. Vincent PM Issues Disaster Alert for La Soufrière Volcano; Island Evacuates Due To “Deteriorating Conditions”

by Carolee Chanona
Early morning view of La Soufrière volcano taken from the Belmont Observatory. (Photo credit: UWI-SRC, Prof Robertson)

SVG has upgraded their Alert Level to Red, with an evacuation order under immediate effect. La Soufrière St. Vincent volcano could erupt “possibly within hours or days.”

st Vincent grenadines caribbean evacuates volcano

Home to more than 100,000 people, the chain of islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are now under an immediate evacuation order for La Soufrière volcano. The effusive eruption of the volcano continues to be characterized by the actively growing lava dome, raising the disaster alert level to RED. While the CARICOM nation moves quickly to evacuate, vessels have been dispatched to the leeward side of the island for residents in the red zone. Earlier today, Hon. PM Ralph Gonsalves has ordered—with immediate effect—the evacuation of all premises of the red zones in SVG and the areas themselves.

Cruise ships will transport evacuees to neighbouring islands of Barbados, Grenada & St Lucia; Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago have also indicated willingness to provide assistance to SVG. La Soufrière, located near the northern tip of the main island of St. Vincent, last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people. As the highest level of alert—four of four—the RED level indicates an eruption is in process or may begin without further warning.

La Soufrière swarms of Volcano-Tectonic VT earthquakes building since April 5

On 5 April at 06:38 local time, a swarm of small volcano-tectonic earthquakes began to occur as the West Indies Seismic Research Centre’s (UWI-SRC) seismic station recorded. The quakes increased gradually until about 08:30 local time as continued at steady rate after. The earthquakes were located beneath the volcano’s summit at 6 km depth. The largest event reached the magnitude of 3.5 that was felt by residents living close to the volcano.

The heightened volcanic-tectonic (VT) earthquakes today suggests that fresh magma is trying to get to the surface.

The swarm is related with an elevated seismic activity at the volcano occurred during 23-26 March as a period of volcano-tectonic earthquakes was detected.

As of noon today (April 8), the steaming or smoking at the La Soufriere Volcano has increased over the last few hours.

Seventeen of the eastern Caribbean’s 19 live volcanoes are located on 11 islands, while the remaining two underwater near the island of Grenada. One includes “Kick ‘Em Jenny” which has been active in recent years.

Header image: Early morning view of La Soufrière volcano taken from the Belmont Observatory. (Photo credit: UWI-SRC, Prof. Robertson)

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