Satellite photos show the Caribbean island of St Vincent before and after a volcano erupted, and the difference is shocking.
The La Soufriere volcano started erupting on Friday, and fired off a second, larger explosion on Monday. By Tuesday, as the photos show, the island nation’s Richmond Vale Waterfront was completely covered in ash.
Between 16,000 and 20,000 people have been evacuated from the areas surrounding the volcano. No deaths have been reported so far, but experts say the situation is extremely dangerous.
“It’s destroying everything in its path,” Erouscilla Joseph, head of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center, told AP News. “Anybody who would have not heeded the evacuation, they need to get out immediately.”
Experts say the big danger now is the pyroclastic flows – extremely fast, extremely hot currents of volcanic gas and debris. Professor Richard Robertson, another expert at the Seismic Research Center, says such flows have already destroyed the volcano’s original dome.
“Anything that was there, man, animal, anything … they are gone,” Mr Robinson told AP. “And it’s a terrible thing to say it.”
St Vincent’s leader, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, says the country will need hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from the damage.
“It’s a huge operation that is facing us,” Mr Gonsalves told NBC Radio. “It’s going to be costly, but I don’t want us to penny-pinch … This is going to be a long haul.”
Meanwhile, the thousands who evacuated are in need of supplies. Over 3,000 people are staying in government shelters, and the volcanic ash has contaminated much of the island’s water and crops.
On Tuesday, long lines of people waited for water and money sent by friends and relatives.
“The volcano caught us with our pants down, and it’s very devastating,” one person in line, retired police officer Paul Smart, told AP. “No water, lots of dust in our home. We thank God we are alive, but we need more help at this moment.”