By Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent
St Vincent has been sent reeling by a series of eruptions at its La Soufriere volcano.
Since last Friday April 9th when it began spewing massive plumes of ash thousands of feet into the air, the volcano has been in a constate spate of activity with powerful eruptions and scorching avalanches of pyroclastic flows.
The northern part of the island in the key agriculture zone has been devastated by ashfall which has covered the area in a thick sheet of material extruded from the volcano.
Crop damage has been extensive, as well as damage to some properties and infrastructure.
Water supply was interrupted at one point and some areas are still without electricity.
The authorities in St Vincent have been appealing to persons who were reported to have remained in the area despite a massive evacuation effort, to leave immediately.
The dense ash clouds have reached as far Barbados causing disruptions to air traffic and forcing the closure of the Grantley Adams International Airport.
An eruptive phase this past Tuesday April 13th coincided with the anniversary of the last eruption of La Soufriere 42 years to the day in 1979.
The Seismic Research Unit of the University of the West Indies which is monitoring the volcano and advising the St Vincent and Grenadines government, says the ongoing eruptions are the most severe since the previous activity in 1902.
In an update it said: “The volcano continues to erupt explosively and has now begun to generate pyroclastic density currents - hot (200°C-700°C), ground-hugging flows of ash and debris."
“Explosions and accompanying ashfall, of similar or larger magnitude, are likely to continue to occur over the next few days impacting St. Vincent and neighbouring islands,” the UWI Seismic Unit reported.
Countries in the region have rushed to provide support to their neighbour with aid supplies along with international relief supplies.
The British government has also announced that it has provided an initial £200,000, via the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to support the regional response, through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said its “rapid crisis funds will help provide lifesaving humanitarian supplies like shelter, sanitation kits and protective equipment. Urgently needed technical experts will support relief efforts on the ground, support emergency telecommunications, and restore critical lifeline facilities, like transport links.”
Assessing the plight of his country, St Vincent’s Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, said, “There have been tremendous difficulties. People have been displaced and are worried about their homes, but the spirit has been good, and people recognise that this is an extraordinary situation.”