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Flights diverted from Caribbean to avoid ash cloud

The eruption of a volcano on the island of St Vincent in the Caribbean is causing chaos for flights coming to the region.

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St Vincent: The eruption of a volcano on the island of St Vincent in the Caribbean is causing chaos for flights coming to the region. After four consecutive days of eruptions, flights to and from the island have been cancelled since Friday. The large ash cloud has moved eastward and is now causing disruption to other Caribbean islands.

Several eruptions

It was more than 40 years ago when the volcano, known as La Soufrière, last erupted on April 13, 1979 on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. Only a few days after its commemoration, the volcano erupted again, on April 9, 2021. The first eruption was quickly followed by another explosion, this time sending a large ash plume into the air.

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Over the weekend, several new eruptions kept on to occur, disrupting water supply and cutting off electricity to the island. Yesterday, again, more eruptions, and more than that rising in the air. As expected, flight activities to and from the island ceased.

St Vincent’s only airport that offers scheduled international flights is Argyle International. Data show no planes have departed or arrived since April 9, with Sunwing Airlines’ flight to Bridgetown the last to depart successfully. Flights are currently cancelled until Friday, though further cancellations would be needed.

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Photographs shared on social media from the day after the eruptions show how dense the ash cloud is on the island.

Track airline activity

Spire Aviation, which gives global flight tracking information powered by satellites, has tracked the flight activity around the volcano and after the eruption. In stark contrast to the eruption in Iceland previous month, many small planes and rotating aircraft arrived to view the spectacle. The eruption in the Caribbean islands had the opposite effect.

As can be seen, the volcano area showed no signs of flight activity in the aftermath of the eruption. Immediately after the event, a giant ash cloud formed over Saint Vincent. According to reports, the ash plume reached an altitude of 35,000 feet, which disrupted not only local flights but also long-distance services using the airspace.

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Spire Aviation recommends Simple Flying that a total of 32 scheduled flights be cancelled by April 12th. Cancellations affected Caribbean Airlines, Intercaribbean Airways and American Airlines.

The problem is moving east

As the ash cloud continued to grow, it began to move eastward, darkening the sky above neighbouring Barbados and causing chaos flying here as well. LIAT, a local airline, operating in the Caribbean region, said Monday that all aircrafts south of Dominica have been suspended. This includes flights to and from Barbados, St Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada.

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This morning, Caribbean Airlines notified that all flights to and from Barbados would be cancelled until at least April 18th. As La Soufrière still shows no signs of silence and the ash cloud still pushing eastwards, projections could be affected as far as Cape Verde by the end of the week.

Flights between Europe and South America will likely have to be diverted to avoid the ash cloud, which will cause longer journeys and potential disruption of schedules.

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