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Volcano Erupts On Caribbean Island Of St. Vincent As Evacuation Continues

Plumes of ash rise on Friday from the La Soufrière volcano as it erupts on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, as seen from Chateaubelair.
Plumes of ash rise on Friday from the La Soufrière volcano as it erupts on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, as seen from Chateaubelair.

Updated April 9, 2021 at 9:58 AM ET

A volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent has experienced an "explosive eruption," according to officials there, hours after increased activity at the mountain set off a mandatory evacuation of nearby residents.

At 9:08 a.m. local time on Friday, St. Vincent's National Emergency Management Organisation announced in a tweet that the volcano, known as La Soufriere, had experienced an "explosive eruption."

Social media posts of video taken by witnesses on the ground showed plumes of ash rising from the volcano.

On Thursday afternoon, after days of increased seismic activity associated with La Soufriere volcano, emergency management officials raised the alert level to Red, announcing that a vessel had been "dispatched to the Leeward side of the island to move residents in the red zone who are in harm's way," the agency said in a tweet.

Residents were being evacuated from the northeast and northwest of the island effective immediately, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves announced in a news conference on Thursday.

People would be boarded onto a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was heading to the island, NEMO said, adding that it was also coordinating removal efforts by land.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises said they were "sending ships to St. Vincent in the Caribbean to evacuate residents."

"Both cruise lines are working closely with St. Vincent authorities to assist residents most at risk. Royal Caribbean International's Serenade of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Reflection are on their way to the island nation and are expected to arrive later this evening to assist with evacuation efforts," according to the statement, adding that precautions would be taken "to protect the health and safety of the crew and passengers who board our ships."

An estimated 16,000 residents live in the red zone and will have to be removed, Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies' Seismic Research Center, told The Associated Press.

Gonsalves said people who wish to board a rescue cruise ship or who are granted temporary refuge on any nearby islands will have to be vaccinated.

The neighboring islands of St. Lucia and Grenada, as well as Barbados and Antigua have agreed to take refugees from St. Vincent, according to AP.

Crowds of masked people were captured on cell phone video on Thursday carrying backpacks and plastic bags containing what appear to be some of their belongings. Lines of cars were seen crowding a narrow road out of the danger area.

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