The Caribbean states have offered aid by either shipping emergency supplies or temporarily opening their borders.
A day after a violent explosion at La Soufriere volcano that uprooted the lives of thousands of people who evacuated their homes by order of the government, heavy ash fell on parts of the eastern Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and a strong smell of sulfur enveloped the communities.
Caribbean states like Antigua and Guyana offered help on Saturday by either sending emergency supplies or temporarily opening their borders to the roughly 16,000 evacuees who fled ash-covered communities with as many personal items as they could stuff into suitcases and backpacks.
The volcano, which last had a sizeable eruption in 1979, rumbled on, and experts warned the explosions could last for days or weeks.
An earlier outbreak in 1902 killed around 1,600 people.
“The first bang is not necessarily the biggest bang this volcano will make,” Richard Robertson, geologist at the University of West Indies Seismic Research Center, said during a press conference.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves urged people to stay calm, be patient and continue protecting themselves from the coronavirus as he celebrated the aftermath of the outbreak on the northern tip of Saint Vincent, part of a chain of islands that includes the Grenadines and the Belonging to the Grenadines, no deaths or injuries have been reported is home to more than 100,000 people.
“Agriculture is going to be badly hit and we may have some animal loss and we have to make repairs to houses, but when we have life and strength we will rebuild it better and stronger together,” he said in an interview with NBC Radio, a local broadcaster.
Gonsalves has said that it could take up to four months for life to return to normal, depending on the damage caused by the explosion.
As of Friday, 2,000 people were in 62 government shelters while four empty cruise ships hovered nearby, waiting to take other evacuees to the nearby islands.
Those in shelters were tested for COVID-19, and anyone who tested positive was taken to an isolation center.
An ash cloud almost completely covers the island of Saint Vincent after the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano [Reuters]The first explosion occurred on Friday morning, the day after the government ordered mandatory evacuations, based on warnings from scientists who discovered some sort of seismic activity on Thursday before dawn, meaning magma was floating near the surface.
A pillar of ash burst more than four miles into the sky, and late Friday lightning crackled through the still towering cloud.
The ash forced several flights to be canceled and poor visibility limited evacuation in some areas.
Officials warned Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada could see light ash falling as the 1,220-meter volcano rumbled further. Most of the ash was supposed to end up in the Northeast in the Atlantic.
La Soufriere had previously experienced an exuberant eruption in December that prompted experts from across the region to analyze, among other things, the formation of a new volcanic dome and changes to its crater lake.
There are 19 living volcanoes in the Eastern Caribbean, including two underwater near the island of Grenada. One of them, Kick ‘Em Jenny, has been active for the past few years.
But the most active volcano of all is Soufriere Hills in Montserrat. It has erupted non-stop since 1995, devastating the capital, Plymouth, and killing at least 19 people in 1997.