Fear and amazement at yesterday’s show of force by nature in St Vincent and the Grenadines – but Trinis there are safe.
Nationals of T&T residing in St Vincent are all accounted for and safe following yesterday’s eruptions of the La Soufriere volcano and so far, no one has requested evacuation, says Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Minister Amery Browne.
But for Vincentians whose day began with the first eruption at 8.41 am a followed by another around 3 pm and others, it was a scary or surreal event. Up to around 7 pm, there were about eight eruptions.
The volcano in northern St Vincent last erupted in 1979. It started “rumbling” on Thursday with plumes of emissions seen from out at sea. Magma began moving around 4 am yesterday. It subsequently erupted explosively yesterday, spewing a 10km high ash column as far as Argyle Airport in the island’s south.
The second eruption featured a smaller column about 4 km. Yesterday, northern areas – like Chateaubelair in the Red Zone – were thickly awash with ash, which extended even south to parts of the island’s capital Kingstown. No lava flows were reported, only ash plumes. Scientists have explained that Caribbean volcanoes tend not to have lava flows.
St Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation’s graph showed the ash plume following the eruption extending up to 20,000 feet heading East – with Barbados and northern islands directly in its path.
That situation developed exactly as UWI Seismic Centre geologist Richard Richardson had projected on Thursday. He’d said the main fallout for neighbouring islands would be ash. He’d predicted that could affect not only St Vincent’s northern part but also wider areas such as Barbados, St Lucia and it could also affect aviation traffic also.
Some Vincentians’ reactions showed it was scary for them. One man, whose camera footage displayed the huge towering expanse of billowing ash, stated, “The Soufriere just blow, guys. Watch, look at this, wow! … seeing this thing live. Look Chester cottage right here! This thing mount over the top of the mountain! Wow – the volcano just blow in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Voices in the background are heard exclaiming at the eruptions.
In another, a woman yelled in horror, “Oh gosh watch it! Ho-ly, it really erupt!! My God!!”
Clare Keizer (editor/CEO Searchlight newspaper) said no deaths had been reported, as Vincentians had been prepared and evacuations had been done.
“We’re very grateful. But the volcanologists project we’ll have eruptions for days or week, maybe even longer,” Keizer told Guardian Media.
She’d experienced the 1979 eruption as a child and had seen lightning occurring as it had taken place in the night.
“We’re in the south but there are still people in the Red Zone – which was to have evacuated – who remained there,” she said.
There are also about, 2,000 in government evacuation shelters and many more went to other locations. She said there are two cruise ships in the harbour to take people off the island.
The night before, streams of motorists had made their way down the hilly areas late into the night, evacuating away from the volcano.
In another video, people were trudging through areas covered with ash heading to relocate. A man said his brother’s van had been working all night taking people out and they’d had no rest “… Until everybody get out.”
Yesterday, T&T was bracing for weather fallout from the eruptions’ ash in the atmosphere. There were light grey-cloud cover-skies in parts of North Trinidad and showers last afternoon.
Caricom chairman, T&T PM Dr Keith Rowley, prior to the eruption, said Caricom had mobilised to support St Vincent and the Grenadines and Caricom member states have offered support to house evacuees from the affected area.
The scientific team from UWI’s Seismic Research Centre (SRC) has been on the island constantly monitoring the volcano and rendering scientific advice. He noted other regional agencies assisting on disaster management, evacuation and logistics planning.