On Friday, La Soufriere volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted, with the government evacuating residents to other islands only if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Experts said the first explosion shot an ash column 32,000 feet (10 kilometers) into the sky and that the majority of the ash was headed northeast into the Atlantic Ocean. Lightning crackled through the towering column of smoke and ash late Friday,” the Associated Press reported.
They added, “The volcano last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people.”
According to Yahoo News, “People on the volcano-stricken island of St. Vincent will be evacuated to certain neighboring islands only if they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, the nation’s prime minister said.”
The prime minister has warned that it could be up to four months before people are allowed to return to their homes.
As of Sunday, only 11% of the population of St. Vincent had received the COVID-19 vaccine, meaning 89% of the residents would not be allowed to flee the erupting volcano.
Emergency officials on the island described the situation as a “battle zone” in a tweet on Sunday.
Day no 3 and everything looks like a battle zone. Dreary morning with the ash beginning to harden on the ground due to overnight showers. Many homes still without water and electricity #lasoufriereeruption2021 #hardenedash #morerain #inforthe long haul #
— NEMO SVG (@NEMOSVG) April 11, 2021
More than 16,000 people are in the “red zone,” which is considered “very high hazard” and is “defined by the zone of expected total destruction from pyroclastic flows, surges and mudflows and by the zone of maximum expected damage from all projectiles.”