Volcano Erupts on Caribbean Island, Spewing Lava and Smoke After Decades of No Activity

A volcano in the southern Caribbean erupted early Friday, spewing a two-mile-high cloud of ash into the sky one day after thousands were ordered to evacuate the area.

The long-dormant volcano, known as La Soufrière, on the main island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, moved into an "explosive state" Friday morning, sending plumes up to "eight kilometers," the National Emergency Management Organization shared on Twitter.

Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies Seismic Center, told the Associated Press that more explosions, bigger or smaller, could still occur.

No injuries or deaths have been reported at this time.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves ordered a full evacuation of the area after several small tremors were detected at the volcano, according to The New York Times.

"I want to urge all our people to be calm — do not panic," Gonsalves said in a news conference Thursday. "With God's grace we will get through this very well."

Close to 20,000 people had been evacuated as of Friday morning, officials announced.

Several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines, are expected to arrive Friday to assist with evacuations.

"Each ship will accommodate up to 1,500 residents who will be transported to neighboring islands which have agreed to offer refuge out of harm's way. All precautions will be taken to protect the health and safety of Carnival crew and the passengers who board the ships," a spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines told CNN.

According to the Times, La Soufrière had started to show signs of "renewed activity" in late December.

The volcano last erupted in 1979 and caused no fatalities as evacuations were arranged quickly.

In 1902, however, an eruption of La Soufrière killed nearly 1,700 people.

Cecilia Jewett, 72, who lived through the 1979 eruption, told the Times it was a time she "would not want to relive."

"These young people would not understand. They think it's just an explosion," she said. "The sulfur, what it does to your eyes, your breathing, your very existence."

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