Devastating images show how ash from St Vincent’s volcano is covering the Caribbean's largest island nation

Business Insider– Saint Vincent’s largest volcano, La Soufriere, exploded for a second time on April 11. This has left the Caribbean’s largest island nation covered in ash and dealing with massive power outages as well as limited water supply.

La Soufriere had been dormant for decades. It hadn’t rumbled, spewed lava or emitted any ash plumes since 1979. However, all of that changed in December 2020 when it suddenly woke up again.

What started as subtle rumblings, akin to a snoring giant, turned into telltale signs of a volcanic eruption in the works last week. On April 8, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves ordered the evacuation of more than 16,000 citizens residing in ‘red zones’ — where La Sourfriere’s eruptions were likely to have the most impact.

By Friday, April 9, the first explosive eruption was underway. It shot a column of ash 10 kilometres (kms) into the sky with lightning and thunder crackling through the blackened skies. The evacuation was hindered by poor visibility, according to local authorities.

Two days later, on Sunday, there was a second set of explosions. This time around, most of the country was out of power and covered in ash. According to the UWI Seismic Research Centre, these explosions are likely to continue for the next few days. Not only will the volcanic activity impact Saint Vincent, but also its neighbouring islands.

These devastating photos show the extent of the havoc caused by La Soufriere on the Caribbean’s largest island nation, Saint Vincent:

La Soufriere’s eruptions have left large swathes of areas covered in ash.

La Soufriere’s eruptions have left large swathes of areas covered in ash.

Evidence of overnight ashfallUWI SRC

The first eruption in Saint Vincent on April 9 made evacuation difficult in the face of very poor visibility.

The first eruption in Saint Vincent on April 9 made evacuation difficult in the face of very poor visibility.

Ash from the first eruption led to hazy skies above Saint VincentUWI SRC

The second eruption tipped the scales even further. This is what the UWI-SRC Observatory in Saint Vincent looked like after the explosion on April 11.

The second eruption tipped the scales even further. This is what the UWI-SRC Observatory in Saint Vincent looked like after the explosion on April 11.

UWI SRC

Overnight ashfall left cars and vegetation covered in volcanic ash — tiny jagged particles of rock and natural glass that a volcano blasts into the air.

Overnight ashfall left cars and vegetation covered in volcanic ash — tiny jagged particles of rock and natural glass that a volcano blasts into the air.

Ashfall covers cars and tiny volcanic rocks are hard enough to break windows UWI SRC

The wind can carry this ash for thousands of miles. According to the UWI Seismic Research Centre, ash fall is the most far-reaching and pervasive volcanic hazard.

The wind can carry this ash for thousands of miles. According to the UWI Seismic Research Centre, ash fall is the most far-reaching and pervasive volcanic hazard.

Ashfall from the first explosive eruption   UWI SRC

The problem with ash is that it needs to be cleaned up before it starts to clog sewage pipes, and its impact can linger for years to come.

The problem with ash is that it needs to be cleaned up before it starts to clog sewage pipes, and its impact can linger for years to come.

Extent of ashfall on the roads of Saint Vincent UWI SRC

And, the ash from La Soufriere is impacting everything from vehicles to communication systems.

And, the ash from La Soufriere is impacting everything from vehicles to communication systems.

Ashfall at the UWC SRC observatory after La Soufriere’s eruptionsUWI SRC

The weight of the ash can cause branches to fall or for trees to collapse.

The weight of the ash can cause branches to fall or for trees to collapse.

The weight of the ash is too much for the coconut trees.UWI SRC

However, in the long run, volcano ash helps keep soil very fertile. It contains dozens of minerals like magnesium, calcium, sodium, sulfur and others, which are important for plant growth.

However, in the long run, volcano ash helps keep soil very fertile. It contains dozens of minerals like magnesium, calcium, sodium, sulfur and others, which are important for plant growth.

Vegetation buried by the ash on Saint Vincent on April 11UWI SRC

Weak buildings may not be able to bear the weight.

Weak buildings may not be able to bear the weight.

Damaged buildings in Saint Vincent under the weight of ashfallUWI SRC

Even after ash-producing eruptions come to an end, wind and human activity can stir up fallen ash for years to come. Not only is it a long-term health hazard, but an economic hazard as well.

Even after ash-producing eruptions come to an end, wind and human activity can stir up fallen ash for years to come. Not only is it a long-term health hazard, but an economic hazard as well.

Ashfall on windward side of the islandUWI SRC

The volcanic eruption of La Soufriere isn’t just a danger to Saint Vincent, but also to its surrounding countries.

The volcanic eruption of La Soufriere isn’t just a danger to Saint Vincent, but also to its surrounding countries.

Chateaubelair, a fishing village in Saint Vincent, during the eruptionUWI SRC

UNICEF has announced humanitarian assistance to about 5,000 children affected by the volcano.

UNICEF has announced humanitarian assistance to about 5,000 children affected by the volcano.

Resident of Chateaubelair shelters from the ashfall during the explosive eruptionUWI SRC
(Image: CDEMA