Pyroclastic flows could wipe out northern villages

By Demion McTair. Updated 5:00 a.m., Monday, April 12, 2021, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).

Kingstown, St. Vincent: Pyroclastic flows from the La Soufriere volcano eruption could wipe out settlements in the Red Zone.

According to the US Geological Survey, Pyroclastic flows contain a high-density mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas. They move at very high speed down volcanic slopes, typically following valleys. 

The communities of Fancy, Owia, and Sandy Bay on the north and northeast, which are on the flanks of the volcano, are of particular concern because some residents are refusing to evacuate.

Professor Richard Robertson, Geologist and lead scientist monitoring the La Soufriere volcano explained that when ash plumes go up in the air, collapses can happen on the mountain of the volcano, and pyroclastic flows can happen anywhere around the mountain.

A pyroclastic flow “could happen and it goes towards Fancy, it could happen and it goes towards Owia, it could happen and it goes towards Sandy Bay…,” lead scientist monitoring the volcano – Professor Richard Robertson said Sunday.

An excerpt from a LIVE video on April 11, where Professor Robertson was giving an update about the volcanic eruption.

He said, however, these pyroclastic flows are more likely to happen at Larakai valley, the lowest point of the volcano’s crater. But, they can happen anywhere on the flanks of the volcano depending on the ash plume.

Since La Soufriere began erupting explosively on April 9, there has been evidence of pyroclastic flows, Professor Robertson said.

Professor Robertson also said that there is the possibility of more pyroclastic flows happening.

He warned fishermen or persons using marine vessels about their risks those to those flows, if they happen.

“If you are out to sea and you’re are not more than a mile or two out to sea, and you see one of them things coming down, coming into the sea, you need to move out because they will come to the boat and they will destroy the boat, they will burn the boat,” he said.

These flows wiped out an entire community during the deadly 1902 eruption, killing more than 1,500 people.

Robertson said that the Red Zone is “a crazy place to be” at this time and that anyone there should get out.

The La Soufriere volcano began erupting explosively at 8:41 a.m., on Friday, April 9, 2021.

Officials say the current eruptions could last for days and weeks.

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