Residents of St Vincent and the Grenadines have been warned they may have to evacuate their homes with 24 hours as a volcano begins to spew lava from a newly formed dome after lying dormant for decades.
Authorities have issued an orange alert for the area, affecting more than 100,000 people, as scientists assess the latest eruption.
The orange alert means the volcano may erupt with less than 24 hours notice, and residents who live nearby have been told they may get an evacuation notice. The next highest alert level is red, which means an eruption is in progress.
An earlier report by Reuters that an evacuation order had been issued was incorrect.
On Tuesday officials warned of strong gas emissions, formation of a new volcanic dome and changes to its crater lake at the La Soufriere volcano.
Today the alert level was raised to an orange, with suggestions the volcano could erupt within a day and advising people from Fancy in the north of the island to Georgetown on the northeast coast they may have to evacuate.
A team of scientists from Trinidad and Tobago were flown in to the island today to provide support to those assessing the eruption.
The alert for St Vincent and the Grenadines has been raised to orange after the La Soufriere volcano began spewing magma and a volcanic dome formed (pictured)
Some homeowners in the Caribbean island St Vincent and the Grenadines have been told they may have to evacuate after a new volcanic dome (pictured) formed at the base of the existing dome in the crater at La Soufriere volcano
This map from the University of the West Indies Research Center shows the volcano and how at risk each area of the island is from the volcanic activity from day to day. The whole island has been raised to orange alert (a separate alert level to the hazard zones shown on the map) which means residents may be told to evacuate with less than 24 hours notice
A team of scientists from Trindad and Tobago, including a geologist an instrumentation engineer and engineering technician, were flown in to the island today to provide support to those assessing the eruption
A yellow warning was issued late Tuesday for La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent. La Soufriere, (pictured before the latest eruption) located near the northern tip of the main island of St. Vincent
Aerial shots revealed a small black lava dome with fresh magma had formed at the base of the existing dome in the crater at La Soufriere volcano, St. Vincent.
Fresh magma has made its way to the surface of the crater despite no reports of volcanic earthquakes typically associated with the region.
The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWISRC) said an effusive eruption – in which magma reaches the surface and gently oozes out as opposed to burst through the rocks – is taking place.
According to the organisation, effusive eruptions generally occur when magma has a relatively low amount of gas inside. Sticky lavas form domes compared to runny lavas which can travel several kilometres from the vent. The lava from La Soufriere is not particularly runny.
UWISRC also advised that members of the public should not to visit the volcano at this time.
A three-person team from the organisation, Geologist Prof. Richard Robertson, Instrumentation Engineer Lloyd Lynch and Engineering Technician Ian Juman, arrived on the island this morning to provide scientific support.
When flying in on board the Regional Security System aircraft, the team attempted to get a view of the eruption for themselves before landing at the Argyle International Airport.
A second aerial reconnaissance took place at 4pm which revealed the newly formed dome continues to grow in size.
Aerial shots taken during a reconnaissance revealed there was a large black dome forming as a result of an effusion eruption
Fresh magma has made its way to the surface of the crater despite no reports of volcanic earthquakes typically associated with the region
The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWISRC) said an effusive eruption – in which magma reaches the surface and gently oozes. Pictured: An aerial shot taken during an assessment which shows the site of an eruption (centre right) which took place in 1979
Several aerial reconnaissances have taken place to monitor the area and the latest, which took place at 4pm local time revealed the dome continues to grow
A few days ago The National Emergency Management Organisation for the island provided the public with a document online which detailed the symptoms which can be expected in each alert level.
Orange alerts are triggered when a high levels of seismicity or fumarolic activity, or both, with the possibility of eruptions happening with less than 24 hours notice.
In response, scientists are continuously manning the monitoring system and regularly inspecting the potential vent areas.
Other actions include continuous ground deformation and hydrothermal monitoring as well as daily assessment reports submitted to the civil authorities.
Meanwhile, local authorities will begin coordinating an evacuation and organise regular radio and television announcements to keep the public informed.
La Soufriere, located near the northern tip of the main island of St. Vincent, last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people.
The West Indies science team flew in to the island onboard the Regional Security System aircraft, landing at the Argyle International Airport
A three-person team from the organisation, Geologist Prof. Richard Robertson, Instrumentation Engineer Lloyd Lynch and Engineering Technician Ian Juman, flew in to provide scientific support. Pictured: Authorities prepare for a potential eruption and organise informing the public
Scientists are continuously manning the monitoring system and regularly inspecting the potential vent areas
That occurred shortly before Martinique’s Mt. Pelee erupted and destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre, killing more than 30,000 people.
A yellow alert was also raised for the island of Martinique, an overseas French territory, on Tuesday due to seismic activity under the mountain.
It was the first alert of its kind issued since the volcano last erupted in 1932, Fabrice Fontaine, with Martinique´s Volcanological and Seismological Observatory, told The Associated Press.
While the eastern Caribbean is one long chain of active and extinct volcanoes, volcanologist Erik Klemetti, at Denison University in Ohio, said the activity at Mt. Pelee and La Soufriere are not related.
‘It’s not like one volcano starts erupting that others will,’ he said. ‘It falls into the category of coincidence.’
He said the activity is evidence that magma is lurking underground and percolating toward the surface, although he added that scientists still don’t have a very good understanding of what controls how quickly that happens.
Martinique’s Mt. Pelee too is now active once again. In early December, officials in the French Caribbean territory issued a yellow alert due to seismic activity under the mountain
The most active volcano in recent years in the eastern Caribbean has been Soufriere Hills in Montserrat, which has erupted continuously since 1995, destroying the capital of Plymouth and killing at least 19 people in 1997
‘The answers are not entirely satisfying,’ he said. ‘It’s science that’s still being researched.’
Klemetti said the most active volcano in recent years in the eastern Caribbean has been Soufriere Hills in Montserrat, which has erupted continuously since 1995, destroying the capital of Plymouth and killing at least 19 people in 1997.
Seventeen of the eastern Caribbean´s 19 live volcanoes are located on 11 islands, with the remaining two are underwater near the island of Grenada, including one called Kick `Em Jenny that has been active in recent years.