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St. Vincent warns of volcanic eruption, orders evacuations

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Approximately 16,000 people live in the red zone and will have to be evacuated, Erouscilla Joseph, director of the Seismic Research Center at the University of the West Indies, told the Associated Press.

Evacuation efforts may be hampered by the pandemic.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said at a news conference that people should be vaccinated if they go aboard a cruise ship or are given temporary accommodation on other nearby islands.

Gonsalves said he was talking to other Caribbean governments to accept people’s identity cards if they do not have a passport.

This is an emergency situation and everyone understands this, he said.

Gonsalves added that he highly recommends those who decide to go to a shelter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island chain with more than 100,000 people, be vaccinated.

Joseph said emergency management teams have gone to communities in the red zone and provided transportation to safer locations, including pre-arranged shelters.

They know who has no transport because all of this has been proven before, she said, adding that those who board the ship would not be taken elsewhere but would stay there indefinitely.

Government officials posted on Twitter that the dome of the volcano located on the islands of the northern region can be seen glowing until evening. The alarm released Wednesday evening follows days of seismic activity around La Soufriere.

The scientists alerted the government to a possible eruption after noting a specific type of seismic activity at 3 a.m. Thursday that indicated magma was moving near the surface, Joseph said.

Things are escalating very quickly, she said of volcanic activity, adding that it was impossible to provide an accurate forecast of what might happen in the coming hours or days.

A team from the seismic center arrived in St. Vincent in late December after the volcano had an effusive eruption. They have analyzed the formation of a new volcanic dome, changes in its crater lake, seismic activity and gas emissions, among others.

The volcano last erupted in 1979 and an earlier eruption in 1902 killed about 1,600 people.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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