SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Authorities on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent said Thursday they believe an active volcano is in danger of erupting and have ordered mandatory evacuations.
The island’s emergency management office switched the alert level to red and said a Royal Caribbean cruise ship will arrive after nightfall to evacuate those who live near La Soufriere volcano. Others will be taken to shelters elsewhere in St. Vincent that are outside the danger zone.
Roughly 16,000 people live in the red zone and will need to be evacuated, Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told The Associated Press.
Evacuation efforts could be hampered by the pandemic.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said in a press conference that people have to be vaccinated if they go aboard a cruise ship or are granted temporary refuge in other nearby islands.
The La Soufriere volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.
Gonsalves said he was talking to other Caribbean governments to accept people’s ID cards if they don’t have a passport.
“This is an emergency situation, and everybody understands that,” he said.
Gonsalves recommended those who opt to go to a shelter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island chain of more than 100,000 people, be vaccinated.
Government officials tweeted that the dome of the volcano located on the island’s northern region could be seen glowing by nightfall. The alert followed days of seismic activity around La Soufriere.
Scientists alerted the government about a possible eruption after noting a specific type of seismic activity at 3 a.m. on Thursday that indicated “magma was on the move close to the surface,” Joseph said.
“Things are escalating pretty quickly,” she said of the volcanic activity, adding that it was impossible to provide an exact forecast of what might happen in the next few hours or days.
The volcano last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people.
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