A Caribbean island has issued a red alert and ordered an evacuation after warnings of an ‘imminent’ volcanic eruption.
Residents of St Vincent have been told to leave their homes due to the ‘significant increase in the risk of an eruption.’
The government said on Thursday that the danger centres on the La Soufriere volcano in the northern region of the island.
Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said people living in so-called red zones in the northwest and northeast of the island needed to leave immediately as the volcano pumped out more smoke and steam.
“There is now in the country an evacuation order,” he said in a message broadcast on social media.
St. Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said on Twitter there was now a “substantial prospect of disaster” due to the pick-up in La Soufriere’s seismic activity.
At a press conference, geologist Richard Robertson reportedly said signals show La Soufriere could erupt in a matter of hours or days.
He also said that at 3 am on Thursday, monitoring stations had reported low-level seismic activity, with four different incidents at varying times, with the latest at 10 am.
Ships were helping with the evacuation effort as the “glowing, fiery appearance” of the volcano’s lava dome would become visible as darkness fell on the area, NEMO said.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which has a population of just over 100,000, has not seen volcanic activity since 1979.
An eruption by La Soufriere in 1902 killed more than 1,000 people.
Local media have in recent days also reported increased activity from Mount Pelee on the island of Martinique, which lies to the north of St. Vincent beyond St. Lucia.