Luxury ships from the Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise lines sail to the rescue and evacuate islanders in the path of a volcano eruption

St Vincent volcano eruption
La Soufrière last erupted in 1979.

  • Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise sent ships to the Caribbean island Saint Vincent.
  • The ships helped to evacuate northern areas of the island after La Soufrière threatened to erupt.
  • Saint Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation later tweeted that the volcano did erupt.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ships from both Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International sailed to the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent to help evacuate people from the volcano’s imminent eruption named La Soufrière.

The Caribbean island went into red alert on Thursday, with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves ordering an evacuation of all northern districts of the island, which has a population of approximately 100,000.

The northern areas are home to around 16,000 people. All have been ordered to leave immediately as they were in the direct path of lava flow and literal fire from the volcano.

Saint Vincent evacuation
Northern areas of Saint Vincent were evacuated.

However, commercial cruise ships came to the rescue. Carnival Cruise Line sent two ships – Carnival Legend and Carnival Paradise – to the island on Friday. Royal Caribbean International also sent two ships – Serenade of the Seas and Celebrity Reflection. They arrived on Friday evening, with a third expected to arrive in the coming days.

Each ship is expected to take on board up to 1500 people. They will be transported to neighboring islands who have agreed to house them, according to Travel Weekly.

Cruise ship to St Vincent
Carnival Cruise and Royal Caribbean both sent cruise ships to Saint Vincent to help with the evacuation.

On Thursday, as reported by the Saint Vincent online newspaper News 784, Geologist Richard Robertson said that La Soufrière could erupt at any given time in a matter of days or even hours as the volcano has been increasingly active since November.

Monitoring stations also reported long earthquakes, which suggested that magma was attempting to reach the surface, meaning the volcano was ready to transition to an explosive stage.

On Friday, Saint Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) tweeted that the volcano had indeed “moved into an explosive stage” and erupted.

St Vincent volcano eruption 2
Citizens watching ash plumes from La Soufrière.

“Ash fall recorded as far as Argyle International Airport,” NEMO tweeted, writing that ash plumes were recorded up to 20,000 feet.

Six hours after this, NEMO tweeted that a “second explosive eruption” had occurred, although it was smaller than the first.

“Vincentians are waking up to extremely heavy ashfall and strong sulfur smells which have now advanced to the capital,” NEMO tweeted. There have been no reported casualties as of yet.

La Soufrière last erupted in April 1979. There were no casualties, and the local population was successfully evacuated.

The volcano’s deadliest eruption was in 1902, when 1600 people (predominantly indigenous Caribs) were killed. Shortly after that eruption, Martinique’s Mount Pelee also erupted and destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre. More than 30,000 people died as a result.

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Florida threatened to sue the federal government over the idling of the cruise industry

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday put forth new legislation aimed at protesters.

  • Florida’s governor said the state could sue the federal government if the CDC doesn’t soon allow the US cruise industry to restart.
  • The US cruise industry has remained idled even as coronavirus vaccinations and testing pick up steam.
  • US cruises are not expected to sail until May at the earliest.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Attorney General Ashley Moody said they would consider filing a lawsuit against the federal government over its ongoing restriction on the cruise industry.

During a roundtable discussion with cruise industry executives on Friday, Moody said the state was weighing its legal options against the Biden Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control for keeping the cruise industry idled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In October, the CDC announced a new framework for sailing that requires cruises to have onboard testing and carry out mock voyages and many other requirements before they are allowed to restart in US ports. The industry was shut down a year ago after several coronavirus outbreaks erupted on cruise ships.

“You can’t have an agency shutting down an entire industry based on outdated arbitrary capricious decisions and so we will take all legal action as necessary,” Moody said.

The roundtable discussion included CEOs from Norwegian, Carnival, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Disney Cruise Line, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

DeSantis, a Republican who reopened all businesses and eliminated fines for people refusing to wear masks as COVID-19 ripped through the state last year, said the cruise industry had been idled for too long.

“If you’re not going to be willing to greenlight this, then you need to explain why everywhere else in the world can do it,” DeSantis said during the discussion. “Is it okay for the government to just idle an industry for a year, with no end in sight? I mean, this was never legislated by anybody.”

The US cruise industry has remained idled even as vaccinations and testing pick up steam. Cruise lines in other countries have resumed trips and industry advocates say cruising doesn’t pose a greater risk of transmitting the coronavirus than flying.

A statement by the Florida governor’s office on Friday said the US government failed to provide relief funding to seaports “while airports and transit agencies have received assistance through relief packages.”

US cruises are not expected to sail until May at the earliest. Royal Caribbean Cruises President and CEO Michael Bayley called the situation”devastating,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Florida is home to some of the world’s busiest ports including Miami, Port Canaveral near Kennedy Space Center, and Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale.

Through August 2020, Florida lost around $2.3 billion in wages and 49,500 jobs because of the cruise industry shut down due to the pandemic, according to a September 2020 report by the Federal Maritime Commission.

“We’re the most crippled by what they’re doing with this national cruise lockdown, and so we get liberated from that, you’re going to be able to see maybe tens of thousands, maybe even 100,000 more people going back to work,” DeSantis said.

The CDC did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

According to the Associated Press, some experts say it’s still too early for cruise ships to operate again because of the close quarters on the vessels and other potential issues.

The cargo and cruise operations at Florida’s Jacksonville seaport generate around 139,300 jobs in Florida and more than $31.1 billion in annual economic impact, said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green in a statement this month.

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