SAN JAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Officials on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent said on Thursday they believed the active volcano was in danger of eruption and had ordered evacuation.
The island’s emergency management office changed its alert level to red and said the Royal Caribbean cruise ship would arrive after dusk to evacuate. Other residents near La Soufriere volcano would be taken to a shelter elsewhere in the state. St. Vincent outside the danger zone
Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies Earthquake Research Center, told The Associated Press of approximately 16,000 people.
Evacuation efforts could be hampered by an epidemic.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonzalves said in a news conference that residents must be vaccinated if they board a cruise ship or are granted temporary asylum in other nearby islands.
Gonsalves said he was in talks with other Caribbean governments to get ID cards if they didn’t have passports.
“This is an emergency and everyone understands,” he said.
Gonsalves added that he recommends that those who choose to go to shelters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, islands with more than 100,000 people, are vaccinated.
Joseph said the emergency management team had gone out to communities in the Red District and provided transport to safer locations, including pre-arranged shelters.
“They know who has not had transportation because these things have been canceled before,” she said, adding that those on the cruise will not be taken elsewhere. But it will remain there for an unspecified time.
Government officials tweeted that the volcanic dome located in the northern part of the island could be seen at night. Notifications issued Wednesday evening follow the date of the earthquake surrounding La Soufriere.
Scientists alerted the government of a possible eruption after noticing certain types of seismic activity as of 3am on Thursday, indicating that “Magma moved closer to the surface,” said Joseph.
“Things are deteriorating very quickly,” she said of the volcanic eruption, adding that it is impossible to give an exact prediction of what will happen in the hours or days.
A team from the Earthquake Center arrived at St. Vincent in late December after the volcano erupted. They analyzed the formation of new volcanic domes, crater lake changes, seismic activity and emissions, etc.
The last volcanic eruption in 1979 and the previous eruption in 1902 killed 1,600 people.