Residents of St.Vincent rush to seek shelter as volcanic ash envelopes the city

St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, April 11 2021: The La Soufriere volcano, which was silent for decades  erupted this weekend, covering the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent in ash which is also advancing towards Barbados according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

The Seismic research centre at the University of West Indies, said the first blast occurred on Friday morning sending plumes of hot ash and smoke 6,000 meters into the air. While a second, smaller eruption took place Friday afternoon, spewing out a 4,000-meter-high ash cloud.

Thick plumes of the whitish powder caked roads, homes and buildings in Saint Vincent. Visibility in some areas was extremely limited, while in the capital city Kingstown on the south of the island, the ash caused a thin haze of dust. The eruptions prompted thousands of people to flee for safety. Around 3,000 people spent the night in shelters.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that water has been cut off in most areas and the country’s air space is closed because of the ash. A huge evacuation and safety operation is being planned by the government with some other countries that want to provide aid. Guyana and Venezuela are sending ships with supplies.

La Soufriere which literally means Sulphur mine in French, has been silent since 1979 and its largest blow-up happened over a century ago, killing more than 1,000 people in 1902. This time the rumblings could be heard for weeks before it blew.

The emergency management agency posted photos of a Coast Guard ship evacuating residents of an area who had previously refused to leave. Standing on a dock, the air above the evacuees was a chalky gray. Most of the people in the red zone had been moved to safety by Friday, authorities said. Cruise ships were on the way to assist the evacuation effort. The Saint Vincent and Grenadines police issued an appeal for troublemakers to stop making prank calls to emergency services.

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