Three days after St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ La Soufrière erupted, activity at the volcano is still intense, with the lingering fallout affecting not only the country itself, but many of its Caribbean neighbours.
At 4:15 (GMT-4) on the morning of April 12, the island experienced the volcano’s biggest explosion yet, accompanied by pyroclastic density currents (PDCs), known for being one of the most dangerous aspects of a volcanic eruption, as the hot emissions of ash and debris close to the ground have the ability to travel really fast—as much as hundreds of metres per second—and reach as far as hundreds of kilometres from the source.
The northernmost areas of the island located closest to the volcano—sections of the Red Zone that were evacuated as soon as the threat became imminent—have been practically buried under volcanic ash, with the roofs of many abandoned homes collapsing from the weight:
There have also been reports of large chunks of volcanic rock falling out of the sky:
The continuing eruptions have caused anxiety among the population, with rumblings being heard as far away as the capital, Kingstown, to the south of the island:
One explosion, in particular, was accompanied by lighting, which interrupted the island’s electricity supply:
Dr. Thomas Christopher, a member of the Seismic Research Centre at the University of the West Indies that has been monitoring La Soufrière, posted this video of ash falling like snow:
There has been considerable damage to property, agriculture, livestock and wildlife, and people with asthma and other respiratory conditions are having difficulty with the air quality. There are also concerns about the integrity of the island’s water supply.
On April 11, the island did experience some rainfall, but footage suggests it wasn’t enough to make a difference to the volume of ash in the air. Moreover, when rainfall mixes with volcanic ash, it creates a heavy paste which netizens have been describing as “cement-like sludge”. There are currently over 3,000 displaced people being housed across 87 state-provided shelters.
On Twitter, many social media users shared before and after imagery:
On Facebook, Barbadian Annalee Davis posted some photos of the ash-covered surroundings and shared her experience:
Never thought I’d be locked inside my house wearing a mask to alleviate the tightness in my chest from the fallout of La Soufriere- 90 odd miles west of us. Woke up to lots of ash fall on the patio, the car, the garden- everywhere.
Feeling so claustrophobic here in Barbados. House closed but floors still grimy with volcanic dust.
We are deep inside the anthropocene. And it’s scary. Going outside of our homes is an unhealthy act.
Can’t imagine how everyone in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are feeling at the moment. We’re only getting the fallout from plumes heading our way while they’re in the thick of it with no idea how long these eruptions will continue.Annalee Davis, visual artist
St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Caribbean neighbours, however, have been reaching out to help—not simply volunteering as evacuation destinations, but also pledging financial assistance at a time when the entire region is already reeling from the economic effects of the pandemic. Until La Soufrière settles down, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is going to need all the help it can get.
If you would like to contribute to the island’s relief efforts, there is a St. Vincent Volcano Disaster Relief Go Fund Me page, and different organisations on various Caribbean islands and in the diaspora are accepting donations.