(CMR) An evacuation order has been issued to the people of St Vincent as scientists said the La Soufriere volcano shows signs of an imminent eruption. Scientists said the volcano could erupt within hours or days.
Professor Richard Robertson, the lead scientist monitoring the volcano, said Thursday afternoon that heightened volcanic-tectonic (VT) earthquakes suggest that fresh magma was trying to get to the surface.
He also said the monitoring team noticed elevated and continuous emission of gas Thursday morning, another sign that fresh magma is at or close to the surface.
Roberston noted that the possibility of the volcano exploding has increased significantly and could occur in the next few hours or days.
St Vincent has since been placed on a red alert, the highest on the four-level scale. The red alert means that an explosive eruption is imminent.
There have reportedly been several tremors from 3 am Thursday, lasting from 3-3:40 am, 5-6:20 am, 8-9 am, and then again, about 10:15 a.m. Another band of tremors reportedly occurred around 2 pm EST.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that his government had contacted several nations, including the United States, Cuba, and Venezuela, to discuss possible assistance.
He said that Barbados and St. Lucia are willing to receive evacuees, but they will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Royal Caribbean has indicated that it could get to St. Vincent with a cruise ship that can house 1,500 persons, who will also have to be vaccinated before they are allowed to occupy the vessel.
The company is also expected to assist with transporting persons to Barbados and St Lucia if the need arises.
La Soufriere last erupted explosively on April 13, 1979.
The volcano continues to be closely monitored by a locally based team consisting of scientists from the Soufriere Monitoring Unit, The Trinidad-based University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Centre (SRC), and the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO).