San Juan, Apr 9 (EFE).- A volcano erupted Friday on Saint Vincent, spewing columns of ash up to 6 km in the air and forcing the evacuation of thousands in the north of the Caribbean island.
According to the Seismic Research Unit (SRU) of the University of the West Indies (UWI), in Trinidad and Tobago, the 4,049-foot La Soufrière volcano first erupted in the morning.
More than 13 hours later, a thick column of ash and smoke kept rising from the volcano up in the atmosphere, causing low visibility for the air traffic.
Three volcanic blasts occurred throughout the day, and as it got darker, volcanic lightning became visible sparked by the plume.
The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) said it was evacuating residents from the affected areas.
The agency did not report any casualties due to the eruption.
It is estimated that between 15,000 and 16,000 people living in the so-called red zone near the volcano were affected.
Some of them have already reached safer places by buses and ferries.
However, officials could not specify the number of evacuees.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves indicated that some 4,500 had been evacuated and another 2,000 remain in emergency shelters.
Some of the displaced will be transferred to other neighboring countries on cruise ships.
The prime minister told reporters that the evacuation process had intensified and that a ship had arrived to take people to neighboring Caribbean islands that agreed to host some of those affected.
Many cruise lines immediately mobilized to aid evacuees.
Gonsalves said the governments of Dominica, Grenada, and Antigua had indicated that they would be ready by Sunday or Monday to accept the evacuees.
The La Soufriere volcano began to reactivate last December.
The volcano saw the last major eruption on Apr.13, 1979, when no casualties were reported. That was the second Friday of the fourth month that year.
Coincidentally, it again erupted on the second Friday of this April.
An eruption in 1902 killed more than 1,000 people. EFE