SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Authorities on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent said Thursday that they believe an active volcano is in danger of erupting and have ordered a mandatory evacuation.
The island’s emergency management service switches the warning level to red and says a Royal Caribbean cruise ship will arrive after night to evacuate those living near La Soufriere volcano. Others will be taken to shelters elsewhere in St. Vincent that are outside the danger zone.
Approximately 16,000 people live in the red zone and will have to be evacuated, Jerusalem̵
Evacuation efforts could be hampered by a pandemic.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told a news conference that people should be vaccinated if they board a cruise ship or receive temporary asylum on other nearby islands.
Gonsalves said he was talking to other Caribbean governments to accept people’s IDs if they didn’t have passports.
“This is an emergency and everyone understands it,” he said.
Gonsalves added that he strongly recommends that those who choose to go to a shelter in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an island chain of more than 100,000 people, be vaccinated.
Joseph said emergency management teams go out into the communities in the red zone and provide transportation to safer places, including pre-arranged shelters.
“They know who doesn’t have transport, because all this has been released before,” she said, adding that those who board the cruise ship will not be taken elsewhere, but will remain there indefinitely.
Government officials wrote on Twitter that the dome of the volcano, located in the northern region of the island, could be seen shining until night. The signal, issued Wednesday night, follows days of seismic activity around La Soufriere.
Scientists warned the government of a possible eruption after noting a specific type of seismic activity at 3 a.m. Thursday, indicating “magma is moving near the surface,” Joseph said.
“Things are escalating quite rapidly,” she said of volcanic activity, adding that it was impossible to give an accurate forecast of what could happen in the next few hours or days.
A team from the seismic center arrived in St. Vincent in late December after the eruption of the volcano. They analyze the formation of a new volcanic dome, changes in its crater lake, seismic activity and gas emissions, among other things.
The volcano last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed about 1,600 people.