SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Cots, tents and breathing masks poured into the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, as officials expected to begin distributing them on Saturday, a day after a powerful explosion at La Soufriere volcano, pulled up the lives of thousands of people who evacuated their homes under government orders.
Nations spanning from Antigua to Guyana offered help by either sending emergency supplies to their neighbor or agreeing to temporarily open their borders to the approximately 16,000 evacuees fleeing ash-covered communities with as many personal belongings as they could stop in suitcases and backpacks.
The volcano, which last erupted in 1
“The first bang is not necessarily the largest bang this volcano will give,” Richard Robertson, a geologist at the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told a news conference.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves asked people to remain calm, be patient and continue to protect themselves against the coronavirus as he celebrated that no deaths or injuries were reported after the eruption at the northern tip of St. John’s. Vincent, part of an island chain that includes the Grenadines. and is home to more than 100,000 people.
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“Agriculture will be hit hard and we may lose some animal loss and we will have to repair houses, but if we have life and we have strength, we will build it better, stronger together,” he said. said in an interview with NBC Radio, a local station.
Gonsalves has said that depending on the damage caused by the explosion, it can take up to four months for life to return to normal. As of Friday, 2,000 people lived in 62 public shelters while four empty cruise ships floated nearby, waiting to take other evacuees to nearby islands. Those staying in shelters were tested for COVID-19, and anyone who tested positive would be taken to an isolation center.
The first explosion occurred Friday morning, a day after the government ordered mandatory evacuation based on warnings from scientists who noticed some form of seismic activity before dawn Thursday, meaning magma was moving close to the surface. The blast shot an ash pillar more than seven kilometers into the sky with lightning crackling through the towering cloud of smoke late Friday.
The volcanic activity forced the cancellation of several flights, while falling ash limited evacuations in some areas due to poor visibility. Officials warned that Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada could see slight ash fall as the 4,003-foot volcano continued to rumble. Most of the ash was expected to go northeast into the Atlantic Ocean.
La Soufriere previously had a powerful eruption in December, prompting experts from across the region to fly in and analyze the formation of a new volcanic dome and changes in, among other things, the crater lake.
The Eastern Caribbean has 19 living volcanoes, including two underwater near the island of Grenada. One of them, Kick ‘Em Jenny, has been active in recent years. But the most active volcano of all is the Soufriere Hills in Montserrat. It has exploded continuously since 1995 and destroyed the capital of Plymouth, killing at least 19 people in 1997.