Jean-Marc Lecerf /Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
A volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent is threatening to erupt, triggering a mandatory emergency evacuation of residents who are potentially in the path of ash and lava.
The country’s National Emergency Management Organization raised the island’s alert level from orange to red on Thursday afternoon, after days of increased seismic activity associated with La Soufriere volcano.
“Alert level is now RED. Vessel dispatched to the Leeward side of the island to move residents in the red zone who are in harm’s way,” the agency said in a tweet.
Alert level is now RED. Vessel dispatched to the Leeward side of the island to move residents in the red zone who are in harm’s way. #svgeruption2021#movements#
— NEMO SVG (@NEMOSVG) April 8, 2021
Residents are being evacuated from the north east and north west of the island effective immediately, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalvez announced in a press conference.
I have issued an evacuation order to all residents living in the RED ZONES on the North East and the North West of the island. All residents are asked to act accordingly with immediate effect to ensure their safety and that of their families. pic.twitter.com/AJQlCDtOPg
— Ralph Gonsalves (@ComradeRalph) April 8, 2021
People are being boarded onto a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was heading to the island, NEMO said, adding that it is also coordinating removal efforts by land.
An estimated 16,000 residents live in the red zone and will have to be removed, Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told the Associated Press.
Evacuation by land and sea continues in preparation for an explosive eruption of La Soufriere Volcano#eruption2021#SVG
— NEMO SVG (@NEMOSVG) April 9, 2021
Gonsalves said people who wish to board a rescue cruise ship or who are granted temporary refuge on any nearby islands will have to be vaccinated.
Crowds of masked people were captured on cell phone video carrying backpacks and plastic bags containing what appear to be some of their belongings.
“At this moment a number of ferries have been evacuating persons from the red zone areas of the volcano,” wrote Twitter user Kenville Horne. “While persons are seeking safer grounds the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic still looms.”