Since April the La Soufrière volcano, located in the north of the largest island of the country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, has erupted multiple times. Strong explosions generated ash plumes, which are not only impacting the entire island of Saint Vincent, but also transporting massive amounts of ash to the neighboring island country of Barbados in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies.
As a result of the volcanic activity, about 22,240 people were displaced, 4,460 now living in shelters. Mudflows (lahars) and fast-moving flows of hot gases and debris (pyroclastic flows) as well as the volcanic ash have damaged critical infrastructure, and made roads unusable that would be urgently needed to move people and goods in the area. For several days, Saint Vincent had limited access to clean water and electricity, and airports and seaports had to close. The eruption is also affecting the livelihoods of the already vulnerable population on Saint Vincent, and will likely have a strong negative impact on the economy in the months and even years to come. The large amounts of volcanic ash represent a multi-hazard component. Ambient air quality, for example, is severely affected due to fine particles within the volcanic ash that may cause acute respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis symptoms. At the same time, the eruption affected both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The chemical makeup of ash, for instance, can burn vegetation and plants, and the damage of agricultural crops in particular can lead to food insecurity.
In combination with heavy rainfall, and with the onset of the rainy season in the Caribbean, one of the most threatening volcanic hazards is generated in form of so-called lahars (Indonesian term for a “volcanic mudflow”). Along with debris flows, lahars are masses of rock, mud and water rapidly traveling downslope in rugged terrain many miles down valleys, heavily affecting and destroying any local settlement or infrastructure in their way. […]
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