ST VINCENT and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has issued a stage-three disaster alert after elevated activity was detected at the La Soufriere volcano.
Although Dr Gonsalves did not issue an evacuation order when he called a press conference on Thursday afternoon, he said up to 20,000 people should be prepared to leave their homes and possibly the islands if elevated activity continues.
Hundreds of people living near La Soufriere are said to have already started moving south.
Those evacuating will need to be vaccinated, he said, whether at home or in neighbouring Barbados and St Lucia, which have pledged their help. Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada have also offered assistance.
The Jamaica Observer has since reported, "Northern communities in the north of St Vincent and the Grenadines are said to be making final arrangements for evacuation as activity on the active volcano La Soufriere increases."
Prof Richard Robertson of UWI's Seismic Research Centre believes it can erupt "any time from now," but it's impossible to say exactly when that might happen.
The Seismic Research Centre issued a statement around midday noting that, "steaming/smoking at the La Soufriere Volcano has increased over the last few hours...The alert level remains at Orange. The National Emergency Management Organisation is reminding the public that no evacuation order or notice has been issued.
"Residents especially persons living in communities close to the volcano are encouraged to be prepared in the event that it becomes necessary to evacuate at short notice; The National Emergency Management Organisation will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as it becomes necessary."