Once again, the volcano La Soufrière has spit ash and smoke on the Caribbean island of Saint-Vincent. According to the director of the seismological center of the University of the West Indies, one of the explosions today is similar to that of 1902, when some 1600 people died.
Todays eruptions have not, as far as we know, been killed or injured. Some 16,000 people left the red zones last weekend. Several dozen people have not responded to the call for evacuation.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has once again called on those who remain behind to leave the area around the volcano. “Its really time for you to go, its dangerous,” he says, “AP news agency. “The ash clouds destroy everything in their path,” also says the director of the seismological centre. “Anyone who has not been evacuated must leave immediately.”
According to Deputy Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel, the damage is enormous, especially in the north-eastern part of the island. “What I saw was terrible,” he says, according to AP. Streets, cars and buildings are under the ashes, as can be seen on images. Farms are also buried under a grey layer, agricultural land is unusable for the time being.
La Soufrière erupted Friday morning, for the first time since 1979, with dark ash clouds reaching miles high. Islanders were brought by cruise ships to surrounding islands such as Saint-Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and Antigua.
“One after another ash cloud”
The ash clouds of the La Soufrière have also reached surrounding islands. “It snows here!” , says 40-year-old Maartje van der Maas, who lives on Barbados, more than 170 kilometres east of Saint-Vincent. “I look out now and see one ash cloud after another fly by.”
According to the Dutch, there is about 5 centimetres of ash all over the island. “At Saint-Vincent its 15 centimeters, so it could be worse. But its not good, the whole world is gray.” Authorities have asked the residents of Barbados, especially people with respiratory problems, to stay indoors. “Ironic, because we were just out of the lockdown,” says Van der Maas.
Pictures of Van der Maas show how Barbados has been affected:
But the biggest job has yet to come, because how do you make an island ash-free? “Good question, Ive been breaking my head about that all day,” asks the Dutch too. “Every time I wipe or spray something, a new ash cloud comes up. And they say that it can continue for another month like this.”
The end doesnt seem to be in sight. Last weekend there were several small eruptions of the volcano on Saint-Vincent. Yesterday, a massive explosion even led to power outages. There are also concerns about drinking water, which is polluted by the many amounts of ash. According to the authorities, it is impossible to protect the waters from this.
“ It is also dry season, we have been suffering from drought for years,” says Van der Maas. “Everyone needs water to clean now, so the local authorities have already called to be very economical. Were already at 60 percent of what we normally use today, and its only 13.50 hours.”
Prime Minister Gonsalves of Saint-Vincent believes that life can take up to four months to return to normal on his island. “Its a huge operation were facing,” he says. “Its gonna take a long time and cost a lot of money. But we will do everything we can to help those who were forced to leave their homes.”
Saint-Vincent is the largest island of Saint-Vincent and the Grenadines. Theres about 100,000 people living there. The situation surrounding the coronavirus does not make it easier to deal with this disaster. Since the eruptions began Friday, fourteen new cases have been reported on the island.
Anyone who goes to a shelter on the island must be tested. Those who test positive are taken to isolation centers. More than 3700 people have now been captured at 84 locations.