A volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted Friday, just hours after the government ordered the mandatory evacuation of an estimated 16,000 people. Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies Seismic Center (UWI-SRC), described a 6-mile high column of ash extending from La Soufriere volcano, per the AP. "More explosions could occur," Joseph adds. The county's National Emergency Management Organization had raised an alert level from orange to red—meaning an eruption is imminent—on Thursday following days of increased seismic activity. A mandatory emergency evacuation order followed for an estimated 16,000 residents of the island's northeast and northwest areas, per NPR. NEMO said the evacuations were being carried out "by land and by sea."
Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity Cruises lent ships to aid in evacuations. At least some were to take evacuees to Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, and St. Lucia, reports the Washington Post. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalvez said Thursday that those hoping to take shelter on the ships would first need to receive coronavirus vaccinations. It's unclear if that requirement delayed efforts. A glowing lava dome had been observed from one side of the island early Friday, following bands of volcanic tremors on Thursday. The volcano last experienced an explosive eruption in 1979. An effusive eruption in 1971-72 created a lava dome that lasted until that time. Other eruptions came in 1902-03, 1814, 1812, and 1718. (Iceland's volcanic eruption may be entering a second stage.)