'Extremely heavy ash fall' as authorities report third explosion at volcano in St. Vincent

The La Soufriere volcano erupted Friday for the first time since 1979. - Robertson S. Henry/Reuters

Originally Published: 10 APR 21 16:50 ET

Updated: 10 APR 21 16:52 ET

By Radina Gigova and Theresa Waldrop, CNN

    (CNN) -- The La Soufrière volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted a third time on Friday, according to officials.

The volcano "continues to show periods of explosive activity," said Dr. Erouscilla Joseph, director of The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC).

Joseph reported the third explosion in an audio update issued Friday evening. She didn't provide additional details about the third explosion, but it appears it was smaller than the previous two. The center is working with local authorities to monitor the volcano's activity.

On Saturday morning, island residents woke up to "extremely heavy ash fall and strong sulphur smells which have now advanced to the capital," according to a Twitter post from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).

"Be careful all. We are covered in ash and strong sulphur scents pervade the air. For those with respiratory problems we ask that you take the necessary precautions to remain safe and healthy," NEMO said.

Authorities have said it is likely that explosive eruptions could continue to occur "for days and possibly weeks" after the first eruption Friday emitted a plume of ash that extended 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) into the sky.

Friday morning's eruption was the first by the La Soufrière volcano since April 1979, according to NEMO.

"La Soufriere Volcano erupted the second Friday in April (Friday April 13) in 1979. Four days shy of it's anniversary it has again erupted on the second Friday in April (9) in 2021," the organization said on Twitter.

La Soufrière is located on the largest island of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines chain.

The second explosion occurred about 2:45 p.m. Friday and was smaller than the first one, according to NEMO.

"Another explosion observed. The vertical ash column estimated to have gone approximately 4km into the atmosphere. We continue to monitor and update," the UWI-SRC said on its official Facebook page.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Thursday declared a disaster alert prompted by a change in the volcano's eruptive activity. The island was placed on red alert, meaning an eruption was "imminent now," NEMO said.

Evacuation orders were put into place in about a dozen districts of St. Vincent, affecting roughly 6,000 to 7,000 people, a spokesperson for the UWI-SRC told CNN.

Kenton Chance, a freelance journalist, told CNN Friday that he was about five miles away from the volcano in the town of Rosehall on St. Vincent. Ash was still falling but in decreasing amounts, he said.

"Normally, you would have a very commanding view of the volcano," he said. "But because of the amount of ash in the air, you can't see it."

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