A day after a massive volcanic eruption, heavy white ash rained on parts of the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent.
The massive explosion at La Soufriere volcano, which forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, occurred Friday morning and caused white dust to fall on the island’s buildings and streets.
The volcano, which last erupted in 1979, was still rumbling and emitting dark clouds of ash about six miles into the air on Saturday as experts warned explosive eruptions could last for days or possibly weeks.
The volcano continued to make rumbling noises. In Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, roofs, cars and streets were covered in ash. Videos from St. Vincent showed a ghostly landscape.
A witness in the town of Rabaka, about two miles from the volcano, told Reuters the ground was covered with about 30 cm of ash and fragments of rock from the explosion.
Ash clouds extinguished the sun and gave the sky a gloomy twilight look, said the witness.
Nations from Antigua to Guyana offered aid by either sending emergency supplies to their neighbors or agreeing to temporarily open their borders to the roughly 16,000 evacuees.
“The first bang is not necessarily the biggest bang this volcano will make,” said Richard Robertson, geologist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center, during a press conference.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves asked people to stay calm, be patient and continue protecting themselves from the coronavirus as he celebrated no deaths or injuries reported following the outbreak on Friday.
“Agriculture is going to be badly hit and we may have some animal loss and we have to make repairs to houses, but when we have life and strength we will rebuild it better and stronger together,” he said in an interview with NBC Radio, a local broadcaster.
Mr Gonsalves said it could take up to four months for life to return to normal, depending on the damage caused by the explosion.
As of Saturday, 3,200 people were in 62 government shelters while four empty cruise ships hovered nearby, waiting to take other evacuees to the nearby islands.
Those in shelters were tested for Covid-19, and anyone who tested positive was taken to an isolation center.
The first explosion occurred on Friday morning, the day after the government ordered mandatory evacuations, based on warnings from scientists who discovered some sort of seismic activity on Thursday before dawn, meaning magma was floating near the surface.
The explosion shot a pillar of ash 7 km into the sky, and late Friday, lightning crackled through the towering cloud of smoke.
Volcanic activity forced the cancellation of several flights, while falling ash limited evacuation in some areas due to poor visibility.
Officials warned that Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada could see light ash fall as the 1,220-meter volcano rumbled further.
Most of the ash was to end up in the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, home to just over 100,000 people, have not seen volcanic activity since 1979, when an eruption caused approximately $ 100 million in damage. More than 1,000 people were killed in the La Soufriere eruption in 1902.