After decades of inactivity a volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent has rumbled back to life. As authorities brace for a potential eruption, misinformation about evacuation orders on major news outlets is spreading panic.
Contrary to reports in the local and international media, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency has unequivocally stated that no evacuation orders have been issued amid increased activity at the Soufriere volcano.
The National Emergency Management Organization of St. Vincent and The Grenadines issued an urgent tweet Sunday to deny reports that evacuation orders had been issued.
“Several media outlets both locally and abroad have published false information to this effect,” the agency said. “These reports are inaccurate and misleading.”
Prior to last week’s eruption, the Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent had been dormant for decades but began billowing ash into the sky last week. A 1979 eruption caused no harm as there was sufficient warning given to residents. However, a 1902 eruption caused at least 1,600 deaths.
Over the past week, a volcanic dome formed by lava has increased in size in the days since the uptick in activity, but officials have been careful to highlight that any potential eruption would be effusive not explosive in nature, meaning it would be confined to the volcano’s crater and would likely pose minimal risk to human life.
Authorities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a chain of islands home to more than 100,000 people, did raise the alert level to orange, indicating that eruptions are now possible with less than 24 hours’ notice. However, no disruption to daily life was expected, and certainly no evacuation orders, for the time being at least.
“The government warned those living near the volcano to prepare to evacuate if needed, declaring an orange alert that means eruptions could occur with less than 24 hours’ notice,” the AP reported.
“St. Vincent residents advised to evacuate after La Soufriere volcano spews ash,” a headline from the Reuters news agency reads, some four days after it was initially published.
The UK’s Daily Mail also ran with the evacuation order headline before correcting their piece and shifting the blame onto Reuters for the error.
“An earlier report by Reuters that an evacuation order had been issued was incorrect,” the Mail’s editorial staff wrote.
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