Effusive eruption at La Soufrière volcano; Residents close by to put evacuation preparations in place

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A three member team is expected to arrive in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) from UWI tomorrow (Wednesday December 30, 2020) to monitor current activity at the La Soufrière volcano.

Speaking virtually at a media briefing this afternoon (Tuesday December 29, 2020), Director of the UWI Seismic Research Centre, Professor Richard Robertson informed that there has been an ongoing effusive eruption at the volcano which started earlier today.

Essentially, magma is coming slowly out of the earth and building a new dome, on the side of the existing dome.

A team from the Seismic Monitoring Unit in SVG visited the crater and reported the presence of satellite dome on the South East of the existing dome, strong gas emissions and the small crater lake is virtually gone.

Whether or not the volcano would become explosive can not be predicted at this time, Professor Robertson informed, noting that a lot more data is needed.

The largest seismic event was a magnitude 3.3 on December 16th, 2020.

On December 28, 2020, routine observations made by NASA for hot spots across the globe, indicated a hot spot within the crater of La Soufrière.

On December 29, 2020, additional satellite images indicated an extension of this hot spot.

Prime Minister Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves announced that SVG alert level has been moved to orange (level 3 of 4).

No UN-official/recreational visits to be the crater should not be made at this time to avoid an possible hazardous situations.

With the increase in activity, the alert level has been moved to orange. Which means there is a higher elevated activity of heat and gas at the volcano with a strong sulfur smell.

“All residents in communities between Fancy to Georgetown and Belle Isle upwards, you have to be on alert especially,” PM Gonsalves warned.

At short notice, these communities may get an order to evacuate, if scientific findings show that an explosive eruption will occur or is likely. SVG’s current preparation system gives a notice of 48 hours.

Gonsalves: “I’m urging all Vincentians to remain calm and to listen to the alerts from the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO). All residents living close to the volcano are asked to make all necessary preparations to evacuate just in case an order is given. I want to emphasize, no evacuation order is being given… this is really an alert because of the increased activity taking place at La Soufrière with the effusive eruption internally with the heat which is coming out and with the steam which is coming out.”

The UWI Seismic Research Centre informed the government of SVG of activity at the volcano since November, 2020, but were within normal range and so the public was not alerted.

La Soufriere is an active volcano in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The last recorded eruption was in April 1979. The volcano is accessible from either the Leeward or Windward coast.

Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (Facebook)