At Morne Ronde 18 earthquakes were felt on April 29th and the Crater Lake was observed to be steaming with emissions seen from Wallibou and Richmond. Earthquakes were felt on the north side of the volcano, particularly strong on the west coast at Morne Ronde and increased in number and intensity.
During the early hours of the morning the Crater Lake was partly ejected causing flooding of the Wallibou River. Solid material was ejected first at 6:00am with the emission of steam accompanied by a black cloud, which subsided rapidly.
At 7:40am, another steam cloud was emitted; estimated to have reached over 9km in only one minute. There were ashfalls at Wallibou, Fancy and Kingstown.
At 12:25pm dense black upheavals from the crater accompanied flooding of the Rabacca River, as more of the lake water was ejected. At 1:00pm there was an eruption and mudflow streamed down the Rabacca River.
At 2:00pm, the climax of the eruption occurred with the formation of a nuee ardente, which flowed down the Wallibou, Laridai, Balein, and Rabacca rivers. All who were not in well sealed rooms were killed.
The eruption continues intermittently during this period with activity ranging from minor steam eruptions to explosive events on May 18th and September 3rd. The eruption devastated the island but not on the same scale as the May 7th event.
Scientists believe that he 1902 eruption was probably the second largest event, the 1712 eruption being the largest during the historic period at the Soufriere volcano. Over 1500 Vincentians lost their lives and thousands displaced.
Scientists also believe that although the Soufriere volcano will erupt again, it will probably never be as devastating as 1902 because of major advances in volcanology the science of volcanoes and because there is a greater understanding of the behaviour of Soufriere.
Volcanoes usually provide several signs before an eruption. For instance, many earthquakes were felt in neighbouring villages months before the eruption. So much so, that Caribs fearing the worst from the volcano, moved from Morne Ronde to Chateaubelair days before.
It has also been said that on May 6th, the day before the biggest eruption, fish vendors who were making their way across the mountain reported that the Crater Lake was boiling. Unfortunately, many villagers ignored both the Caribs and the fish vendors.
In April 1902, Mount Pelee in Martinique also had a devastating eruption which killed over 30,000 people.
The short interval between this and the eruption on St. Vincent however, does not mean that these or any other volcanoes in the Eastern Caribbean are linked underground or that one eruption triggered the other.
It also does not mean that April and May mark the season for volcanic eruptions.
Source NEMO SVG