Early Friday morning, an “explosive” eruption occurred at St Vincent’s La Soufriere volcano.
The eruption’s ash plume extended at least 10 kilometers into the sky, according to Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Local pilots were reporting an ash plume of up to 25,000 feet.
More explosions are possible, according to Professor Richard Robertson of the Trinidad-based University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre.
“There’s fresh magma, fresh material, and gas rich enough to cause an explosion right close to the surface,” he said.
Most of the ash is expected to stay in the northern part of the country where the volcano is, he said, depending on the wind direction.
It’s not yet clear what’s in store for the volcano, he said.
“We have entered an explosive phase, and now it’s necessary to monitor and see if it’s going to get bigger or smaller and if it’s coming to an end or not.”
Robertson said to expect some ash in southern areas of the island, but “once you’re off the mountain you should be good.”
And he cautioned those living on the mountain looking to wait out the eruption.
“If you’re still one of the persons anywhere on the mountain, the first bang is not necessarily the biggest bang,” he said.
The country has begun evacuating residents living near the volcano.
“The evacuation continues,” Gonsalves said in a national address.
So far, almost 5,000 people have been moved, with at least 2,000 people inside shelters.
Two cruise ships are already in port in the country’s capital, Kingstown, ready to transport residents. Gonsalves noted that, due to a lack of personnel, they will only be used for transport to neighboring islands and not for extended stays.
The eruption has set off a groundswell of support from across the Caribbean, with a number of islands offering to support the island and take in evacuees.
“It is very touching that there are families in Antigua and Grenada and Saint Lucia and Dominica who are calling in and say that they will take people if need be into their homes,” Gonsalves said. “On this dangerous road to Jericho we have the good Samaritans.”