La Soufrière’s Volcanic Ash Cause Buildings in Sandy Bay, St. Vincent To Collapse

Present La Soufrière Alert Level:ORANGEThere is a highly elevated level of seismic and/or fumarolic activity or other unusual activity. An eruption may begin with less than twenty-four hours’ notice.

Over the last 36 hours, thick plumes of volcanic ash have blanketed St. Vincent and the Grenadines and parts of Barbados. The weight of the volcanic ash is now causing damage to infrastructure near the La Soufrière Volcano in Sandy Bay, St. Vincent.

Volcanic ash blanketing Sandy Bay, St. Vincent as La Soufrière continues to explosively erupt for a second day in a row.
Volcanic ash blanketing Sandy Bay, St. Vincent as La Soufrière continues to explosively erupt for a second day in a row.

Sandy Bay is located in the Red Zone of the La Soufrière Integrated Hazard Zone. In the community, several homes have been destroyed, with one roof of the Sandy Bay Secondary School collapsing.

Damaged building of the Sandy Bay Secondary School as layers of volcanic ash from La Soufrière cause roof collapses across the Sandy Bay community.
Damaged building of the Sandy Bay Secondary School as layers of volcanic ash from La Soufrière cause roof collapses across the Sandy Bay community.

Volcanic ash is not the product of combustion, like the soft fluffy material created by burning wood, leaves, or paper. Rather, ash consists of fragments of rocks, minerals, and volcanic glass ranging in size from sand to clay-like. Ash is hard, abrasive, mildly corrosive, conducts electricity when wet, and does not dissolve in water.

Damaged home in Sandy Bay, St. Vincent as La Soufrière continues to explosively erupt for the second day in a row, dumping layers of volcanic ash on the community.
Damaged home in Sandy Bay, St. Vincent as La Soufrière continues to explosively erupt for the second day in a row, dumping layers of volcanic ash on the community.

Layers of ash have fallen across the entirety of St. Vincent with larger accumulations occurring further north, closer to the La Soufrière Volcano crater.

Residents within the Red Zone, including those in Sandy Bay and Owia, St. Vincent, were rescued by St. Vincent and the Grenadines Coast Guard on Friday for those who decided not to evacuate. The government had ordered a mandatory evacuation of persons living in the Red Zone in which Owia falls. On Saturday, La Soufriere continued explosive eruptions, with heavier ashfall reported across the country. Two to six inches of ash was reported at Rabacca as of early Saturday morning.

On Saturday 10th April 2021, UWI Professor Richard Robertson said overnight, the tremors have generated energetic venting and continuous ash.

In a Facebook post, St Vincent’s Health Ministry said volcanic ash exposure could irritate the eyes and the respiratory system. The Ministry stated when breathing ash-contaminated air, the particles can irritate the airways, causing them to contract more frequently. 

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