KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – More people fled their homes on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent on Sunday when La Soufrière volcano rumbled loudly for a third day and the heavy weight of its ash fall damaged some buildings. Local residents reported widespread power outages early in the day, although authorities restored power to most of the island in the late afternoon.
The La Soufrière eruption on Friday prompted many people to evacuate their homes and others who had stayed in the area sought refuge elsewhere on Sunday.
The rumble of the volcano could be heard in the capital Kingstown, about 20 miles south.
“I’m just here wondering when it’ll settle down,” said resident Kalique Sutherland.
The outbreak could continue for some time, said Richard Robertson, senior scientist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center.
“It’s likely that things will calm down at some point and hopefully we’ll take a break so we can relax a bit more, but don’t be surprised if it starts like this again after the break,” said Robertson.
Elford Lewis, a 56-year-old farmer who evacuated his home Sunday morning, said the ongoing outbreak was worse than the last major outbreak in 1979.
“This one is more serious,” said Lewis, who witnessed the big breakout decades ago.
An eruption of the 1,220 meter high volcano in 1902 killed around 1,600 people.
About 16,000 people had to flee their ash-covered communities with as much belongings as possible in suitcases and backpacks. However, there are no reports of anyone being killed or injured in the first explosion or subsequent explosions.
Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of the 32 islands that make up the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has said people should stay calm and keep trying to protect themselves from the coronavirus. He said officials were trying to figure out the best way to collect and dispose of the ashes that covered an airport runway near Kingstown and fell as far as Barbados, about 190 kilometers east.
About 3,200 people sought refuge in 78 government-run shelters, and four empty cruise ships stood ready to transfer other evacuees to nearby islands, with a group of more than 130 already being transferred to St. Lucia. Those in the shelters were tested for COVID-19, with anyone who was taken to an isolation center tested positive.
Neighboring countries, including Antigua and Grenada, also offered to take in evacuees.