Experts worry about residents refusing to evacuate as a “ huge explosion ” reported at La Soufrière volcano.
The La Soufrière volcano on the Caribbean island of St Vincent has erupted in another huge explosion, sending sulfuric gas and ash over a large area and raising concerns for the safety of residents who did not evacuate.
Monday’s latest eruption sent rapid flows of hot gases and volcanic material to the southern and southwest flanks of the volcano, which first erupted on Friday.
The government had ordered around 16,000 people who live in communities near the volcano to evacuate on April 9, after the island was put on red alert due to a lag in volcanic activity at La Soufrière crater.
“It destroys everything in its path,” Erouscilla Joseph, director of the Center for Seismic Research at the University of the West Indies, told the Associated Press.
“Anyone who ignored the evacuation must come out immediately,” Joseph said.
So far, no fatalities or injuries have been reported, but the island’s drinking water supply has been polluted.
“There was a very big explosion – the biggest to date of this event – this morning around 4:15 am [08:15 GMT]Colvin Harry, program director at NBC Radio in Kingstown, the capital of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said Monday.
“There has been an ongoing process of ventilation from the location of the volcano,” Harry told Al Jazeera.
He said people are now running out of clean water because supplies have become “highly contaminated” due to the volcano ash.
La Soufrière last erupted in 1979, while a previous eruption in 1902 killed around 1,600 people.
The volcano started showing signs of activity in December and began erupting again April 9.
Preliminary reports indicate that flows from the volcano have destroyed farms and structures nearby.
“Scientists have indicated that it could go on for days. It can go on for weeks. It can go way beyond that and there can be very large explosions from time to time throwing even more ash into the atmosphere, ”Harry said.
“It won’t be a pretty picture when we get a full picture,” he said.
Experts have raised concerns about residents refusing to evacuate.
It is not known how many people stayed at home, but a government minister who visited the island’s northeast region on Sunday said he saw a few dozen people in the community of Sandy Bay alone.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves urged people to leave, telling them it was dangerous.
Gonsalves also said over the weekend that it could take four months for life to return to normal in St Vincent.
Richard Robertson, a seismic researcher, told NBC Radio that the pyroclastic flows from the volcano – which the National Geographic Television Network defines as “a dense and rapid flow[s] pieces of solidified lava, volcanic ash and hot gases ”- would have wiped out everything in their path.
“Everything that was there – man, animal, whatever… they’re gone,” said Robertson. “And it’s terrible to say it.”