St. Vincent Volcano Update As Residents Urged To Leave: 'It's Not a Nice Way To Go'

Pyroclastic flows headed down the eastern side of La Soufriѐre volcano in the Caribbean island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Wednesday as an ongoing eruption continued to generate explosive activity, the country's National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said.

Pyroclastic flows are scorching hot, ground-hugging flows of ash, debris and gases that typically hit temperatures of 390-1,300 F and speeds of more than 400 mph. These flows are capable of destroying nearly everything in their path.

On Wednesday, Richard Robertson from the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC) warned anyone in the danger zone surrounding the volcano to evacuate immediately.

"One of the things that we try to do is make sure that people get the warnings so that they don't get killed," Robertson said Wednesday during an interview with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on local media outlet NBC Radio.

"It really would be unfortunate if people are still there. Because if you get caught in a pyroclastic flow... it's not a nice way to go. You should get out if you are there."

An ongoing effusive eruption has been taking place at the volcano since December, 2020, according to a UWI-SRC factsheet. Effusive eruptions are those in which magma, or molten rock, gently oozes out of the ground, producing lava flows and lava domes.

But on April 9, the 3,864-foot-high La Soufrière volcano, located on the island of Saint Vincent—the largest in the chain—began to produce explosive eruptions, spewing out large quantities of ash and hot gas.

On Monday, the volcano began to generate pyroclastic flows that headed down the volcano's south and southwest flanks.

Between 16,000 and 20,000 people have been evacuated from the area close to the volcano. No deaths have been reported so far, but an unknown number have refused to move, Reuters reported.

"For heaven's sake leave. Do not risk anymore of your life and limb," Gonsalves told anyone still in the volcano's Red Zone on Wednesday.

The current pattern of explosions appears to be episodic—meaning "stop-and-go"—according to the UWI-SRC. But over the past 24 hours, the time between each explosion has increased.

"Explosions and accompanying ashfall, of similar or larger magnitude, are likely to continue to occur over the next few days impacting St. Vincent and neighboring islands such as Barbados, Grenada, Saint Lucia," the UWI-SRC said in a statement. "The volcano is at alert level Red."

La Soufriѐre volcano in Saint Vincent
Image shows the eruption of La Soufriѐre from Rillan Hill in Saint Vincent on April 12. ZEN PUNNETT/Zen Punnett/AFP via Getty Images