WEIS Radio | Native & Space Information, Sports activities, & Climate » Volcanic eruption in Caribbean forces hundreds of evacuations

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(NEW YORK) – La Soufrière volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted Friday morning, forcing over 16,000 people to evacuate from nearby homes.

Scientists had been monitoring the volcano’s activity for years and on Thursday were able to warn the islands of the Grenadines chain of islands through the National Emergency Management Organization of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that a major eruption was imminent.

Heavy ash rain and high clouds of smoke resulted in poor visibility and reportedly disrupted evacuation efforts in some surrounding communities, said Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves at a press conference on Friday.

He added that the nearby islands of Grenada, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda would be ready to take in people from St. Vincent by Monday.

Nearby cruise companies have been notified of the outbreak and have agreed to dispatch four large cruise lines to aid humanitarian efforts and evacuate residents, according to a statement from Carnival Cruise Line.

In the run-up to the outbreak, Royal Caribbean announced on Twitter on Thursday that it would also be sending ships.

Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises are sending ships to St. Vincent in the Caribbean to evacuate residents who are currently at risk from a possible eruption of the island’s La Soufrière volcano, which has become increasingly active in recent days, ”says in an explanation. “Both cruise lines are working closely with St. Vincent authorities to help the most vulnerable residents.”

Gonsalves said that only vaccinated residents supported by Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache, the Chief Medical Officer of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, were checked and identified, as a precaution, allowed to board the ships.

Each ship will accommodate up to 1,500 residents, who, according to Carnival Cruise Line, will be taken to neighboring islands who have agreed to accept the evacuees.

Thousands of people who have not yet been vaccinated stayed ashore Friday and stay in local hotels in safe zones, Gonsalves said.

Professor Richard Robertson of the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center said during a news conference Friday that the eruptions could continue for the next few days or weeks and that experts will continue to monitor the situation.

The State Department said there were “no US citizens known at the time” affected by the volcanic activity, a spokesman told ABC News.

The local US embassy issued a “warning” on Thursday for the “red zones” of St. Vincent, but it does not currently have any figures on the number of US citizens in the country.

ABC News’ Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.

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