“Explosive eruption at La Soufrière,” NEMO tweeted. “Ash plumes up to 20,000 feet are heading east,” he added.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves declared a disaster alert on Thursday triggered by a change in eruptive activity at La Soufrière volcano, NEMO said.
The island went on red alert, meaning an eruption was “imminent now,” NEMO said.
“Please leave the red zone immediately. La Soufrière has erupted. An ash fall was recorded as far as Argyle International Airport,” he said.
On Friday, Dora James, director general of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross, told CNN that the eruption sounded like a “large jet engine” and that there was a “constant flow of smoke” from the ash plume.
Ships and some vehicles picked up last-minute evacuees from the area shortly after the blast, he said. James was also evacuated from the area, but returns to check for damage.
He said phone lines are currently blocked in the area because so many people are calling to try to get news and see anyone who has been left behind.
James lived through the eruptions of April 1979 and remembers them well. She said the 1979 eruptions had more fires and ash.
Kenton Chance, a freelance journalist, told CNN he was about five miles from Le Soufrière volcano in the town of Rosehall in St. Vincent.
“Normally, you would have a very commanding view of the volcano,” he said. “But because of the amount of ash in the air, you can’t see it.” The ash kept falling, but in decreasing amounts, he said.
Chance heard the rumbling from the mountain when he arrived, but it has since subsided.
Evacuation orders were implemented in about a dozen San Vicente districts, affecting roughly 6,000 to 7,000 people, a spokesperson for the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center, or UWI-SRC, told CNN.
While on his way to Rosehall, Chance said he saw several people pulled over to the side of the road, who he believes were evacuees.
He said so far he has seen no reports of property damage, injuries or deaths.