The La Soufrière volcano erupted Friday morning on the island of St. Vincent in the eastern Caribbean, prompting mass evacuation after more than 40 years –but only for those who can prove they have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 China virus, CBS News and other outlets reported.
The last eruption, in 1979, caused more than $100m (£73m) of damage on the island.
The worst eruption on record, in 1902, killed more than 1,000 people.
Evacuees were taken to cruise ships and safer parts of the island.
One resident, Zen Punnett, told the AFP news agency that he saw “a huge ball of smoke”, and that there was panic when people were first ordered to evacuate.
“I can feel and hear rumbling here in the green safe zone… keeping calm as much as possible and praying,” he added.
According to CBS Evening News, “Nearly 20,000 people have been forced out of their homes on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent after a volcano erupted there for the first time in more than 40 years. Cruise ships are now evacuating people from the island — but only those vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Nearly 20,000 people have been forced out of their homes on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent after a volcano erupted there for the first time in more than 40 years.
Cruise ships are now evacuating people from the island — but only those vaccinated against COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/oPBCDHhSpa
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) April 9, 2021
The New York Times reported the vaccine mandate for evacuations was announced by St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves:
Prime Minister Gonsalves said on Thursday that in order to board the cruise ships sent to evacuate people from the island, evacuees must be vaccinated, while the nearby island nations that are planning to accept refugees will also require vaccinations. He also recommended that those who arrive in shelters on St. Vincent be vaccinated.
Islands that have said they would accept evacuees include Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Barbados.
A poster on Twitter noted the vaccine mandate excludes just about the entire population, given that only about ten thousand have been administered a first dose but not a second out of a total population of about 110,000 for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Later on Friday, another explosion was recorded, the UWI Seismic Research Centre tweeted.
Another explosion observed. The vertical ash column estimated to have gone approximately 4km into the atmosphere. We continue to monitor and update. #lasoufrière #volcano #svg #redalert #stilldangerous pic.twitter.com/anDIEb5lpD
— UWISeismic Research (@uwiseismic) April 9, 2021