New volcanic eruption on the island of Saint-Vincent

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New explosions were reported on Sunday in the volcano on the Caribbean island of Saint-Vincent, in the Lesser Antilles, already covered with a thick carpet of ash and which experienced major water and electricity cuts. .

• Read also: The island of Saint-Vincent under thick ash after the eruption of its volcano

Asleep for more than 42 years, the Soufrière volcano woke up on Friday, causing the evacuation of 16,000 inhabitants.

The ash cloud began to move east about 175 km away, approaching the neighboring island of Barbados where people have been urged to stay at home, according to the Caribbean Response Agency. emergency room.

New volcanic eruption on the island of Saint-Vincent

The island of Saint-Vincent, which has a population of about 110,000, reeked of sulfur and appeared to be covered in snow due to the thickness of the ash fallout, reported.

“The landscape of the magnificent Saint-Vincent is covered in ash from the explosions of the night and the degassing of the Soufriere volcano,” tweeted geologist Richard Robertson, who released photos of grim grayish landscapes and described the news lava flows as “a destructive moving mass”.

The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) noted “another explosive event” early Sunday, with “most of the country covered in ash and without electricity.” “Day 3 and everything looks like a war zone,” according to NEMO.

New volcanic eruption on the island of Saint-Vincent

The eruptive phase could last several days or even weeks, according to the Seismological Research Center at the University of the West Indies (UWI) of Trinidad and Tobago, another Caribbean archipelago, which has advised people to do everything. to avoid breathing the ashes.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves announced on Saturday that running water had been cut off on most of the territory in Saint-Vincent, whose airspace was closed. More than 3,000 people also spent the night in shelters.

“We are facing a huge operation”, underlined this official, describing the multiple challenges created by the eruption of the volcano: thick layer of ash, water cuts, closure of air space, atmospheric pollution, risk of looting. in evacuated areas …

New volcanic eruption on the island of Saint-Vincent

“We will get there, but a little patience,” he told his fellow citizens: “Let’s respect order and discipline!”

The Prime Minister added that he was in contact with several countries wishing to help. Guyana and Venezuela have already put ships away with emergency aid, he said.

A boat from Barbados arrived in the capital Kingstown on Saturday morning, local media reported.

No eruption since 1979

A first explosive eruption occurred on Friday morning, causing smoke columns up to 5 miles (8 km) high, followed by a second, smaller one.

New volcanic eruption on the island of Saint-Vincent

La Soufrière – not to be confused with the Grande Soufrière in Guadeloupe – had not known an eruption since 1979. The most devastating, in 1902, had killed more than 1000 people.

The volcano is located at the northern end of the island, where visibility is very limited.

“The extremely heavy ash fall and the strong smell of sulfur are now reaching the capital,” in the south of the island, the local emergency response agency tweeted on Saturday, urging people with respiratory problems to remain caulked.

“There is a deadly silence outside,” told AFP Vynette Frederick, who lives in this large city whose ground, buildings and vehicles were covered with a thin layer of whitish dust.

Further north, Zen Punnett assures that things calmed down after the initial panic caused by the evacuation orders overnight from Thursday to Friday. “The visibility has worsened, we prefer to stay indoors,” she told AFP.

Some people vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to be accommodated in neighboring countries, specified Mr. Gonsalves, praising the regional and international assistance brought to his archipelago.

The Crisis Management Agency posted photos showing a coastguard ship evacuating people who initially refused to leave the area, in a chalky gray haze.

According to the authorities, most of the inhabitants of the red zone were evacuated as early as Friday.

The police of Saint-Vincent and Grenadines also launched an appeal, Saturday, to ask to stop the telephone hoaxes on the emergency numbers.

“We are in the midst of a serious exercise to guarantee security and help those affected by the eruption, these irresponsible calls divert resources necessary for current needs.”