39th Anniversary Of The 1979 La Soufriere Eruption

Every year, hundreds of people make the climb to look at the great wonder of the La Soufriere volcano, oblivious to its historical past.

It is a beauty to behold when you first set eyes on it but it so easy to forget how devastating this sleeping giant can be when it awakes.

At dawn on the 13th of April 1979, the Soufriere Volcano in northern St. Vincent erupted. Six hours earlier the Government of St. Vincent had been warned that a highly abnormal situation existed and that an eruption was likely in the coming hours.

Evacuation of the areas north of the Rabacca and Wallibou rivers started almost at the same time as the first eruption and was completed within 12 hours.

Later Chateaubelair and Georgetown also had to be evacuated. A total of around 15,000-20,000 people (more than 15% of the total population) were relocated to the already densely populated south.

The first eruptions were so powerful that it caused ash to fall on Barbados, 180 km to the east, on the afternoons of 13 and April. The volcano remained active into early June.

 At each eruption, the mushrooming clouds reached up to 8,000 feet, and were readily visible from Kingstown. Each explosion was followed by the deposition of a thin layer of ash over the entire island, heavier in the northern part.

Ash would fall for several hours, resembling light snow. It was irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes.

No direct mortality was attributed to these eruptions, but a rumour about deaths due to traffic accidents associated with the evacuation could never be substantiated or dismissed on firm grounds.

Several patients with fractures suffered during these accidents were hospitalized.

Extract from Georgetownsvgrevisited.co.uk

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