La Soufriere volcano: Biggest volcano explosion yet rocks St Vincent

Ash and smoke billow as the La Soufriere volcano erupts in Kingstown on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent April 9, 2021. REUTERS/Robertson S. Henry
Ash and smoke billow as the La Soufriere volcano erupts in St. Vincent.  REUTERS/Robertson S. Henry

April 12, 2021 – KINGSTOWN, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,  (Reuters) – Hot flows of ash, rock fragments and gas tore down the flanks of the La Soufriere volcano on the tiny Caribbean island of Saint Vincent today after its most powerful explosion yet, four days after it first started erupting.

La Soufriere erupted back into life on Friday after decades of inactivity, pumping dark clouds of ash some 10 km (6 miles) into the air and prompting an evacuation by sea and land of thousands of nearby residents.

No deaths have been reported so far but a roughly a third of the island is off limits and airspace remains closed while power and water supply is intermittent in some communities.

Several Vincentians told Reuters they were avoiding venturing outdoors as the ash was clogging the air and turning into what looked like cement in the rain, making it difficult to walk or drive.

“We are having a lot of ashfall, and it is hard to breathe sometimes,” said Aria Scott, 19, a student living in the capital of Kingstown of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. “I’m not going outside because I don’t want to take the risk.”

Today’s explosion at around 4 a.m. local time was the most powerful to date, said Erouscilla Joseph, director at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, which warned the eruption could cause mudflows as ash was swept into rivers.

“We expect more explosions are possible in the next days to weeks,” she said.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where just over 100,000 people live, had not experienced volcanic activity since 1979, when an eruption caused approximately $100 million in damages. The eruption of La Soufriere – which means “sulfur outlet” in French – in 1902 killed more than 1,000 people.

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency said today it estimated around 16,000-20,000 people would be displaced by volcanic activity, with 3,600 currently in shelters and others staying at the homes of relatives and friends.

Neighbouring countries, have pledged aid. A navy ship from Venezuela arrived today bringing 20 tonnes of supplies and over 12 trained emergency medical personnel, the government said.

Volcanic Hazard Map – St. Vincent

Hazard Zone 1 (Red Zone) – Very High Hazard:

This includes all areas expected to experience maximum damage in the short term, and is the zone where all hazardous events have their greatest influence. It is defined by the zone of expected total destruction from pyroclastic flows, surges and mudflows and by the zone of maximum expected damage from all projectiles. This zone is likely to experience more than 30 cm of ash. During the course of an eruption this zone would be unsuitable for human habitation.

Hazard Zone 2 (Orange Zone) – High Hazard:

This includes all areas of moderate pyroclastic flow and surge hazard, areas within the 5km projectile zone, and areas likely to experience between 10 and 30cm of ash fall. These areas will be affected in a similar manner as Zone 1 during large scale eruptions.

Hazard Zone 3 (Yellow Zone) – Moderate Hazard:

This zone will be free from the effects of flows and surges but will be affected by 5 to 10 cm thick ash falls, minor earthquakes and lightning strikes. This zone will experience significantly less physical damage than Zones 1 and 2.

Hazard Zone 4 (Green Zone) – Low Hazard:

This zone includes areas likely to be relatively safe from hazardous events, except for minor ash fall of less than 5cm. Crop damage and disruption of water supply due to ash fall will be the main effect but other physical damage will be minimal.

The map only shows hazard zone on land. However, lahars and pyroclastic falls, flows and surges will also impact areas offshore to varying degrees, and as such, the hazard zones must be envisaged as extending some distance offshore.

MAP and related Information: St. Vincent – Soufriere_Volcano -2021

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  • brandli62  On 04/13/2021 at 4:57 am

    Let’s hope for the people of St. Vincent that the volcano will not explode and that things subside soon.

  • Bernard  On 04/13/2021 at 10:34 am

    There have been four eruptions of La Soufriere volcano in the past 400 years and many more before modern times. There is currently 19 live volcanoes in the eastern Caribbean on 11 islands, and 2 of them are located undersea.

    The 1902 eruption in St Vincent lasted 8 months and killed at least 1,600 people when the Island’s population was much smaller. The current eruption, comparable to 1902, could last a long time. Indeed, we hope for the best.


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