A. Situation analysis
Description of the disaster
On December 29th, 2020, the La Soufrière volcano's alert level in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was elevated to Orange due to increased activity at the site. Since then, the volcano has had an ongoing effusive eruption, with visible gases and steam eruption and a new volcanic dome formation. The volcano continued to exude magma on the surface during the following months, and gas emissions were observed from the Belmont Observatory. A University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Centre team has been in St. Vincent to support monitoring and data collection and analysis.
Until March 23rd, 2021, the seismic activity had been dominated by minimal lowfrequency events associated with the continuous extrusion of the lava dome. These were almost always only recorded at the seismic station closest to the dome. Starting at approximately 10:30 local time (14:30 UTC) on March 23rd, 2021, the monitoring network recorded a swarm of small low-frequency seismic events, which lasted for about 45 minutes. These events were different from previous activity in that they were also recorded on other stations.
On April 8th, 2021, UWI Seismic Centre raised the alert to RED. This meant that eruption is in progress, or it might erupt explosively without further warning. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross (SVGRC) National Society (NS) confirmed that lava could have been seen on the volcano's western side. Still, no explosive eruption was reported at that time, as evidenced by a lack of ash plumes.
On April 8th, 2021, the Prime Minister issued an evacuation order with immediate effect via a press conference. Safe areas were those from North Union to Kingstown, on the Windward side of the island, Barouallie to Kingstown on the Leeward side, and the Grenadine Islands. The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has been issuing frequent updates on the situation.
Evacuation on the Leeward side went well and according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), over 600 persons were evacuated via maritime assets and elderly and homebound persons. To the Northeast, persons gathered at muster points throughout the area. There have also been reports of persons seeking shelter in neighbouring islands of St. Lucia, Dominica, and Grenada.
The gas coming from the dome continues to cause damage to vegetation in the hillside areas on the south-western sides of the volcano. The gases within the plume are more acidic and can cause respiratory harm to human beings and potentially render one unconscious.
On April 9th, 2021 at 8:40am local time, La Soufriere volcano erupted explosively for the first time since April 1979. An ash column is estimated to have risen as high as 10 kilometers (6 miles) into the air. The NS has reported water disruptions due to falling ash. Government has opened collective centres and some evacuated persons could be placed aboard cruise ships or be sent to nearby islands. Emergency management teams from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross, in conjunction with local authorities have been going out to communities in the red zone and providing transportation to safer locations, including prearranged collective centres. The NEMO has recently reported that “Evacuation of people in the red and orange zones to safe areas continues in earnest. Heavy ash fall has halted the process somewhat since visibility is extremely poor.4 Since the initial eruption on April 9 th , there have also been reports of continuing minor eruptions.
The National Society published the latest GO Report on April 9th, 2021 in which they requested international support. The report can be found here.