The small lava dome which has formed at the base of La Soufriere volcano, St. Vincent, as of Tuesday 29 December 2020. Photo by KEMRON ALEXANDER, Soufriere Monitoring Unit.
SOURCES: UWI-SRC; Barbados Nation

The alert level for La Soufriere volcano has been raised from yellow to orange, following the formation of a small lava dome with fresh magma at the base of the existing dome in the crater at La Soufriere volcano, St. Vincent. 

This is the third highest alert level on the four-colour scheme, with green being the lowest and red being the highest alert level.

People living in the northern third of St Vincent—from Georgetown to Fancy, in the east, and north of Belle Isle, in the west—have been told to prepare to evacuate at short notice, should such an order be given, according to a report in a regional newspaper (The Barbados Nation).

Volcanic Hazard Map for La Soufriere Volcano. Image courtesy UWI-SRC.

A brief statement from the UWI Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC) reports that fresh magma has made a way to the surface of the crater without associated volcanic earthquakes typically found in the Lesser Antilles, hence the appearance of the new lava dome.

UWI-SRC explains that this is an effusive eruption similar to what is seen in Hawaii, but that the Soufriere lava is not as ‘runny’. 

The public has been strongly advised NOT to visit the volcano at this time, and there is the possibility that evacuations may happen soon—depending on the volcanic activity over the next 24 to 48 hours—from those areas at highest risk in the event of a major eruption.

A report in a regional newspaper states that St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, has urged residents in the red zone to be ready to evacuate at short notice.  However, he stressed that the alert was not an order to evacuate.

Meanwhile, both UWI-SRC and NEMO St. Vincent and the Grenadines are continuing to monitor this event and provide updates to the public.