Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaks during a news conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. File/Reuters
Residents of northern areas on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent have been ordered to evacuate homes due to a significant increase in the risk of an eruption at the La Soufriere volcano, the government said on Thursday.
Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said people living in so-called red zones in the northwest and northeast of the island needed to leave immediately as the volcano pumped out more smoke and steam.
“There is now in the country an evacuation order,” Gonsalves said in a message broadcast on social media.
St. Vincent's National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said on Twitter there was now a “substantial prospect of disaster” due to the pick-up in La Soufriere's seismic activity.
Ships were helping to evacuate people, and the “glowing, fiery appearance” of the volcano's lava dome would become visible as darkness fell on the area, NEMO said.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which has a population of just over 100,000, has not seen volcanic activity since 1979. An eruption by La Soufriere in 1902 killed more than 1,000 people.
Local media have in recent days also reported increased activity from Mount Pelee on the island of Martinique, which lies to the north of St. Vincent beyond St. Lucia.
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