The Caribbean island of São Vicente declared a red alert and issued an evacuation order after seismologists warned that the La Soufrière volcano shows signs of an imminent eruption.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves issued the order on Thursday after several days of increased seismic activity.
The country’s National Emergency Management Organization said on Twitter that there was a “substantial prospect of disaster”, and residents warned to “be ready, put your things in order”.
“The safe areas where people will be evacuated are from North Union to Kingstown, on the windward side of the island, from Barrouallie to Kingstown on the leeward side and the Grenadine Islands,” tweeted Nemo.
A Royal Caribbean Line cruise ship was heading to the island to assist with evacuation efforts, Nemo said.
Geologist Richard Robertson said La Soufrière could explode in a matter of hours or days, according to the São Vicente online newspaper, News 784.
Monitoring stations reported long earthquakes, which suggested that fresh magma was trying to reach the surface and indicated that the volcano was moving to “an explosive stage”.
Video posted on social media showed a cloud of smoke rising above the volcano, which is the highest point on the island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
La Soufrière has been increasingly active since November. On Monday, researchers at the University of the West Indies reported that their monitoring station detected a “swarm of small tectonic volcanic earthquakes”, which have steadily increased in magnitude.
“The earthquakes occurred under the top of the volcano, 6 km deep. The biggest event reached the magnitude of 3.5 that was felt by residents who live near the volcano, ”said UWI in a statement.
La Soufrière’s most devastating eruption was in 1902, when about 1,600 people – most of them Caribbean Indians – were killed.
The last eruption occurred in April 1979, but there were no casualties because the local population was evacuated.