Grantley Adams airport in Barbados will be closed until noon on April 14, according to published reports, due to volcanic ash falling over the island following the eruption of La Soufriere volcano on St. Vincent.
Update: The airport closure has been extended to Friday, April 16.
Subsequent eruptions, the most recent on April 12, continue to show a thick plume of ash traveling toward Barbados, 111 miles east of St. Vincent.
Hewannora Airport in St. Lucia, north of St. Vincent, was closed briefly on April 10 when satellite imagery showed an ash plume heading north toward the airport.
Volcanic ash is coating streets and surfaces on Barbados, and the air is full of ash particles and the smell of sulphur, according to Barbados Today. (La Soufriere means “sulphur outlet” in French.)
In addition, Saharan dust haze has been present over the island recently, which also has reduced visibility.
The Barbados Meteorological Services issued a severe volcanic ash and small-craft warning. In addition, residents, visitors and marine users were warned that ash fall could cause possible respiratory problems for those with breathing difficulties. Barbadians have been urged to stay off the roads due to lack of visibility and surface conditions.
“Do not use the car’s ventilation system,” the Barbados Meteorological Services warned.
Meanwhile, close to 20,000 people have been forced out of their homes in northern St. Vincent. Neighboring islands were quick to step in with offers to house the evacuees, including St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, who said that the island would accept “at least 300 Vincentians in the first round, and this gives us the ability to go through the safety protocols that we’ve put in place. We have to prepare for at least three months of accommodations initially."
Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and the British Virgin Islands also have offered to take in evacuees.
Three major cruise lines sent ships to St. Vincent to help with the evacuation efforts.