KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, (CMC/iWN) — La Soufriere volcano erupted shortly before noon on Wednesday (local/Atlantic Standard time), hours after authorities urged persons defying evacuation order were, to leave the Red Zone.
The eruption, for a sixth day in a row, came hours after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made an impassioned plea for persons to leave the red zone area as the volcano continues to erupt generating possibly pyroclastic density currents (PCDs).
Gonsalves, speaking on the state-owned NBC Radio said that there were still people residing in the area within the volcano who were still refusing to leave even as the authorities have sent the Coast Guard vessels and vehicles to get them out.
“Persons who have left elderly ones or persons who for one reason or the other do not want to come out the window is narrowing sharply and given the pyroclastic flows, for Heaven’s sake leave.
“If you are over in Fancy, or in Point or in Sandy Bay, wherever you are you get to Owia and somehow if we get to know and even the cycles, the pattern over these eruptions, the prospects of the pyroclastic flows, we have narrow windows.
“Please I am asking you do not risk anymore of your life and your limb. We have done well in having no deaths, no injuries. We love you very much, we want to help to take care of you,” Gonsalves said.
He said since the evacuation order was given last Friday, the Coast Guard has made at least five trips removing more than 100 people including a 19-year-old person whose family had been reluctant to allow him to leave.
Gonsalves said in addition to the hazards caused by the erupting volcano, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is also dealing with the spread of the novel coronavirusm which causes COVID-19.
“Yesterday, for instance, you could see why the Ministry of Health is concerned about doing the PCR test and doing vaccinations because we are in the time of COVID. One of the 12 persons (evacuated) yesterday is someone who … just over two weeks ago, we have the record that he was tested positive.
“We could not find him to test him over even when the community health services went looking for him. Well he is one of the late stragglers. We are testing them now, we don’t know the results as yet. But you know all those who were on the vessel will have to be tested and if there is any problem there is the question of contact tracing at a time like this.
“This is why for persons who are encouraging people not to test or not to take the vaccine, they are irresponsible,” Gonsalves said.
He told listeners that law enforcement authorities have stepped up their surveillance after two people were arrested in the red zone area, having arrived there by boat, in a bid to rob the houses of persons who had evacuated and gone into shelters.
“For instance we got reports yesterday and we intercepted two persons that we got intelligence that there were persons who had arrived at a particular area on the Leeward side of the island which has been evacuated.
“The intelligence was that they were to break into houses and to take people’s important valuables and put them on boat and go elsewhere and sell and so forth,” Gonsalves said, noting that while the two persons had been intercepted, no goods were found in their possession.
He said that security persons from Trinidad and Tobago, the Barbados-based Regional Security System and another Caribbean country are due to arrive here later on Wednesday to beef up security.
Earlier, the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said that an explosion occurred at 11.00 pm (local time) on Tuesday night and that seismic activity at the volcano which erupted last Friday had changed with explosive activity.
“The volcano continues to erupt explosively and has now begun to generate pyroclastic density currents. Explosions and accompanying ashfall, of similar or larger magnitude, are likely to continue to occur over the next few days,” the SRC added.