Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises are sending ships to St. Vincent in the Caribbean to evacuate residents now at risk from a potential eruption of the island's La Soufriere volcano which has seen increasing activity in recent days.
Update: Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves this afternoon issued an evacuation order for the area around La Soufrière and all homes in the areas designated as the Red Zone on the northeast and northwest of St. Vincent.
Scientists alerted the government about a possible eruption after noting a type of seismic activity at 3 a.m. on Thursday that indicated 'magma was on the move close to the surface, ' Joseph said.
Earlier, Professor Richard Robertson, the lead scientist monitoring the volcano, reported that there had been a "significant" change in activity with the onset of tremors.
The prime minister noted that no evacuation order had been given but that there is a declaration that there is a substantial prospect that a disaster will strike. "It means that an explosive eruption is imminent so we have raised the alert level to red and an evacuation order has been given", she said.
Robertson said this flow is one of the most risky things from a volcano like La Soufriere which is why people are moved off the mountain.
It followed what he described as a heightened period of activity at the volcano.
He said the possibility for La Soufriere to get to an explosive phase has "increased significantly".
Director of NEMO Michelle Forbes said all emergency shelters have been activated and the Ministry of Education has already contacted the managers of these shelters.
He also said he was working with other Caribbean governments to ensure that they could accept an ID card since not everyone has a passport. Gonsalves said Barbados and St Lucia are willing to receive evacuees, but they will have to be vaccinated against covid19.
He also announced that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has asked the World Bank to fast-track the release of funds from a special facility that had been in the pipeline before the declaration of an emergency.
Any evacuees boarding the cruise ships or seeking refuge overseas would be required to get vaccinated, he added. Most notably, the eruption of 1902 killed many Indigenous Black Caribs, who had been banished by the British colonial government to live at Sandy Bay in the shadow of the volcano.