San Juan, Apr 8 (efe-epa).- Residents of the Caribbean island of St Vincent on Thursday were evacuating by land and sea amid warnings of an imminent eruption of the La Soufrière volcano.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had announced an evacuation order effective immediately from St Vincent’s northern area to safe zones that run from North Union to capital Kingstown, and another from Barouallie to Kingstown, as well as to the islands of the Grenadines.
In addition, the National Emergency Management Organization (Nemo) activated its National Emergency Operations Center, which began working around the clock.
“Evacuation by land and sea continues in preparation for an explosive eruption of La Soufrière Volcano,” Nemo tweeted.
Gonsalves, during a press conference Thursday after a new series of tremors, had asked the population to be on maximum alert.
The scientist at the head of the control of the activity of the volcano, the geologist Richard Robertson, reported that between 3 am and 10 am Thursday the monitoring stations reported seismic activity.
He said long earthquakes were reported, a sign that fresh magma was trying to reach the surface, indicating that the volcano was moving into “an explosive stage.”
An eruption could happen in the next few hours or days, he said, clarifying that it couldn’t be ruled out that the volcano may return to normal.
Nemo director Michelle Forbes said her team had been in contact with various government agencies to increase preparations for an evacuation.
She said disaster officials were preparing shelters and that the national disaster management council would meet Thursday, in addition to stressing that communities in the north of the island of St Vincent should be prepared.
Gonsalves stressed that his government will follow the advice of Robertson and his team of scientists.
He added that he has already contacted the leaders of Barbados, St Lucia, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda regarding a potential repatriation of some 20,000 people should the need arise.
Gonsalves said that Barbados and St Lucia are willing to receive evacuees, but that they will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
He said his government has also been in contact with friendly nations, including the United States, Cuba and Venezuela to discuss possible assistance.
A Royal Caribbean cruise liner will arrive Thursday night to assist with evacuations, Nemo said. The company earlier said it had the capacity to accommodate 1,500 people, who must also be vaccinated.
The reopening of schools scheduled for next Monday has been suspended until further notice.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has not seen prominent volcanic activity since 1979.
An explosive eruption at La Soufrière in 1902 killed more than 1,000 people. EFE-EPA