The falling ash situation is prompting authorities to arrange the evacuation of the population of St Vincent, however the prime minister has said only those vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to board the waiting ships.
Experts are warning that the Caribbean island of St Vincent is likely to see further volcanic eruptions and ash fall over the coming days.
The 4,000ft La Soufriere volcano erupted on Friday, transforming the island’s lush towns into a gloomy, grey landscape.
Despite ash spreading as far as Barbados, no reports of injury have been reported.
“The volcano continues to erupt explosively with the production of copious amounts of ash,” the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center said.
“Explosions and accompanying ash fall, of similar or larger magnitude, are likely to continue to occur over the next few days impacting St Vincent and neighbouring islands,” it warned.
An operation is underway to temporarily re-house people on the neighbouring islands of St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, and Antigua.
However, only residents and tourists who have had the Covid-19 vaccination are being allowed onboard the two Royal Caribbean cruise ships and two Carnival Cruise Lines vessels to evacuate.
“The chief medical officer would be identifying the persons already vaccinated so that we can get them on the ship,” St Vincent and the Grenadines’ prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves said.
“If people are willing to welcome you at a time of Covid-19, they will wish you to have the highest level of protection possible.”
However, despite Gonsalves’ announcement, neither Royal Caribbean nor Carnival Cruise Line have mentioned anything about keeping unvaccinated passengers off their ships.
Royal Caribbean did say that “all precautions will be taken to protect the health and safety of the crew and passengers who board our ships”, but did not elaborate further.
Neither have the governments of the islands released any official statements clarifying whether or not they would accept unvaccinated evacuees.
Further complicating matters is the fact that St Vincent received its first shipment of vaccines only two days before the eruption.
Throughout the pandemic, St Vincent and the Grenadines has recorded only 1,789 cases of Covid-19 and 10 deaths, according to figures from the World Health Organization.
The eruption on Friday has left the island with a strong smell of sulphur as power and water cuts are reported across the nation.