Ernesto Cooke and Oscar Lopez (The New York Times) write about today’s volcanic eruption on St. Vincent, which sent plumes of ash 20,000 feet skyward and caused thousands of people to evacuate. “La Soufrière, on the main island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, last erupted in 1979. It sent two explosive plumes of ash and smoke on Friday, and 20,000 people fled.”
A volcano in the southern Caribbean that had been dormant for decades erupted in a billowing blast of gray smoke Friday, spewing clouds of ash for miles and forcing thousands to evacuate.
The volcano, known as La Soufrière, on the northern tip of the main island of St. Vincent, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, had started showing signs of renewed activity in late December.
It moved into an “explosive state” on Friday morning, the National Emergency Management Organization said in a Twitter posting.
“It was a very, very loud bang,” said Shaquille Hadaway Williams, 22, a St. Vincent resident, describing the moment the volcano erupted. Soon the smell of sulfur permeated the air, he said, followed by clouds of ash, with stones falling on roofs and flashes of volcanic lightning in the sky. “You never see something like this,” Mr. Hadaway said.
The country’s emergency management agency said the ash fall had been registered as far as the country’s international airport on the southern part of the island — more than 12 miles away — while an ash plume had billowed 20,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean.
The morning eruption was followed about six hours later by a “second explosive eruption” that was not as extensive, the agency said.
Video clips shot in Chateaubelair, a town on the foothills of the volcano, showed the sky darkened by ash as evacuees wearing face masks trudged through the streets lugging their belongings. Other clips posted on social media showed homes and streets blanketed in grayish white ash.
“The sky, right now it’s very, very dark because of the ash plummeting into the air,” said Mr. Hadaway, who had evacuated from his village on the western part of the island on Thursday afternoon as the government warned of possibly imminent eruptions.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, and the extent of any damage in the surrounding area was unclear.
The eruptions came a day after officials had raised the alert level following several small tremors detected at the volcano, with clouds of steam seen erupting from its peak. The country’s prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, ordered a full evacuation of the area. [. . .]