St Vincent volcano Soufrière erupts with mass evacuation and ash 5 miles high

An "explosive" volcanic eruption has sent huge plumes of ash and sparked a mass evacuation on a Caribbean island.

Some 16,000 islanders are being evacuated after La Soufrière began erupting in St Vincent.

Scientists confirmed an "explosive eruption" was underway just before 9am local time on Friday (1pm in the UK).

Surrounding villages are now being covered by ash with plumes up to five miles high.

Charts show they are heading east into the sea from the island which was used to film Pirates of the Caribbean.

University of the West Indies seismologists tweeted: "At 8:41 am this morning 9-4-21 an explosive eruption began at La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent.

"This is a culmination of the seismic activity that began on April 8. The eruption is ongoing and more information will be shared as things progress."

They shared photos of the terrifying plumes of smoke and added: "Photos from the explosive eruption that occurred at La Soufriere, SVG at 8:41 am local time.

"Ash has begun to fall on the flanks of the volcano and surrounding communities including Chateaubelair and Petite Bordel.

"Some has gone offshore and has even reached the Observatory."

The volcano last erupted in 1979, with an earlier blast killing 1,600 people in 1902.

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On Thursday night, a lava dome became visible on La Soufrière, suggesting it was about to erupt.

The country’s National Emergency Management Organisation tweeted: "La Soufriere has moved into an explosive state. Plumes up to eight kilometers.

"Please leave the red zone immediately. La Soufriere has erupted. Ash fall recorded as far as Argyle International Airport.

"Ash plumes up to 20,000 feet headed East.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves urged people living in the 'red zones' in the northwest and northeast of the island to evacuate immediately on Thursday night.

Evacuees are being given temporary homes on cruise ships and in safer parts of the island.

Neighbouring islands St Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and Grenada said they are willing to accept evacuees.

Mr Gonsalves said he is in talks with other Caribbean governments about accepting ID cards if individuals do not have a passport.

In 2002, Saint Vincent was one of the filming locations for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Several hundred residents were hired as cast members.

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