Premier David Burt extended his thoughts and prayers to the people of St Vincent & The Grenadines, where the Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves issued an evacuation order yesterday (April 8), for at least 16,000 people to leave their homes immediately.

The island’s alert level was switched to red, which means an eruption is “imminent”.

Announcing the order, Mr Gonsalves said people will be put on cruise ships, sent to nearby islands or taken to shelters elsewhere in St Vincent that are outside the danger zone.

In a statement released last night, Premier Burt said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of St. Vincent & The Grenadines as they face the possible eruption of the volcano La Soufriere.

“The Caricom Family is united in its desire to provide support where necessary and like our Regional partners we continue to hope for the best. I will be making contact with Prime Minister Gonsalves to personally convey these well wishes.”

“La Soufriere last erupted in 1979 and today’s heightened alert comes as a result of increased seismic and volcanic activity. Reports indicate that plans are in place to effect the evacuation of residents in the area of the volcano,” said Mr Burt.

“A number of Bermudian families have ties to St. Vincent & The Grenadines including that of Deputy Premier Walter Roban.”

Meanwhile, as the volcano pumped out smoke and steam, the Prime Minister said people living in the island’s red zones in the northwest and northeast needed to leave.

Roughly 16,000 people live in the red zones who will need to be evacuated, Erouscilla Joseph, Director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center said.

“There is now in the country an evacuation order,” Gonsalves said in a message broadcast on social media.

St Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said on Twitter there was now a ‘substantial prospect of disaster’ due to the pick-up in La Soufriere’s seismic activity.

But the pandemic could hamper evacuation efforts, as the Prime Minister said people will have to be vaccinated before they board a cruise ship or are granted temporary refuge in another island.

Two Royal Caribbean cruise ships are expected to arrive today with two Carnival cruise ships. Another ship is due to arrive in the days ahead.