A thick layer of ash covered large parts of St. Vincent on Saturday after the Caribbean island’s only active volcano erupted after decades of inactivity.
A strong stench of sulfur swept the island on Saturday as lush towns and cities bore a gray and gloomy look. Ash covered roads and parked cars, slowly creeping its way into houses and other structures. Otherwise known for its brilliant sunshine, the sun was hard to see.
"All I'm asking of everybody is to be calm," Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told reporters on a visit to a shelter that housed residents who had to be evacuated following the eruption.
Gonsalves said it remained unclear how much more ash the volcano would spew but the country’s air space had been closed because of the ash. The water supply had also been cut off in many areas, with nearly 3,200 people spending the night in shelters.
A massive cloud of dust was seen moving east, causing discomfort to residents of the neighboring island of Barbados.
"Barbadians have been urged to stay indoors as thick plumes of volcanic ash move through the atmosphere," the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency said.
The eastern Caribbean is a highly volcanic region with as many as 19 active volcanoes spread out across 11 islands. A 1997 eruption in Montserrat killed at least 19 people.
La Soufriere is the only active volcano on St. Vincent and is the highest peak on the island at 1,234 meters (4,049 feet) tall. The volcano had previously erupted five times since 1718, with one eruption in May 1902 killing 1,680 people.