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N.B. man worries for family riding out volcanic eruption on Caribbean island

·3 min read
The eruption of St. Vincent's La Soufrière has Murray Hillocks worried for friends and family of his living on the island. He's originally from the Caribbean island and moved to New Brunswick in 2008. (The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre - image credit)
The eruption of St. Vincent's La Soufrière has Murray Hillocks worried for friends and family of his living on the island. He's originally from the Caribbean island and moved to New Brunswick in 2008. (The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre - image credit)

The eruption of a volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent has a New Brunswick man worried for the safety of family members who live in the country.

After weeks of seismic activity, La Soufrière, a volcano on the northern end of St. Vincent, erupted last Friday for the first time since 1979, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people away from the immediate area of the volcano, and blanketing much of the island in a thick layer of ash.

Murray Hillocks, who moved from the island to New Brunswick in 2008, said it's been an emotional time for him knowing the volcano is erupting while he's in Fredericton and unable to be close to his family.

Most of Murray Hillocks's immediate family lives in a part of St. Vincent that's in the orange zone of risk to the volcanic eruption. Hillocks is pictured with his mother, left, daughter, front, and grandmother, right.
Most of Murray Hillocks's immediate family lives in a part of St. Vincent that's in the orange zone of risk to the volcanic eruption. Hillocks is pictured with his mother, left, daughter, front, and grandmother, right.(Submitted by Murray Hillocks)

"Just imagine, like, the day turn to night instantly just because of [the volcano] blowing off, and, like, dark clouds basically turning the skies to night," Hillocks said.

"I was amazed and shocked, and I never thought I would live to see the volcano erupt … because we've been living with it forever, and we never really think anything of it. We never think that our generation will be going through this."

His family, who live in the eastern town of Colonarie, are in what the country's National Emergency Management Organization has designated as part of the yellow zone of risk from the volcano's eruption.

While they're out of immediate danger of lava and pyroclastic flows, Hillocks said, their region has been blanketed in thick ash, making it difficult to breathe. The ash and falling rocks have also caved in the roofs of homes in the area, he said.

The town of Colonarie is in the yellow zone of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines emergency management volcanic hazard map.
The town of Colonarie is in the yellow zone of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines emergency management volcanic hazard map.(St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Emergency Management Organisation)

"Like now, I'm more concerned about food and fresh water and stuff, but on the whole over the volcano, like, I'm worried that, like, if it actually blows ... and it gets to the point where there's toxic gas flowing, then that could be, like, very dangerous."

More eruptions expected over coming days

The eruption has turned into an ongoing event, with the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre reporting three separate explosive eruptions from the volcano on Friday, followed by another explosive eruption Tuesday morning. There have also been reports of "pyroclastic density currents," which result in extremely hot flows of ash and debris down the sides of the volcano.

"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," the centre said in a social media update Tuesday.

Murray Hillocks' family is riding out the volcanic eruption in the eastern St. Vincent town of Colonarie.
Murray Hillocks' family is riding out the volcanic eruption in the eastern St. Vincent town of Colonarie.(Submitted by Murray Hillocks)

Hillocks said he's been getting frequent updates from his family, and they have been safe and unharmed by the falling ash.

Access to water and food is becoming uncertain, however, and he's trying to help them purchase supplies.

"So as of now, all I can do is hope and pray that this doesn't get worse, but overall, yes, I'm worried about their safety."