The La Soufriere volcano eruption

… Disaster relief fund to launch
… As national emergency items move

By Vahnu Manikchand

President Dr Irfaan Ali has said that all Guyanese living and working in the Caricom island province of St Vincent and Grenadines (SVG), where the La Soufriere volcano began to erupt on Friday, are safe.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali

In an exclusive interview with Guyana Times, the Head of State said he had been in regular contact with the Prime Minister of St Vincent, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, while his Ministers were also reaching out to their counterparts in the island state.
“We have also been in contact with the Honorary Consul there and he has assured us that the Guyanese are safe… He is co-ordinating, he is in contact with the Guyanese and he has got everything right,” said the President.
As it stands, there are thousands of Guyanese in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Guyana Times spoke briefly to at least two Guyanese and noted that they are safe on the south side of the island and that most if not all Guyanese they know are also in that area that has been designated as a Green Zone on this at present.
When asked, President Ali told this newspaper, as of Friday evening, there were no requests from any of the Guyanese in St. Vincent for the returned.
Nevertheless, Ali, who had assured his colleague St Vincent’s Head of State by telephone on Thursday of Guyana’s full and unwavering support during this crisis, noted that they had introduced a national mobilization scheme to assist the Government’s urgent needs and the people of the island State.
“I met with the Head of Private Sector (Commission) today and we have decided that we are going to coordinate our efforts nationally between the Private Sector and Government. We have identified the CDC (Civil Defense Commission) as the focal point for coordinating all aid. We have received and are working on a list of essential and emergency needs from St Vincent, ”noted the Guyanese leader.

Floating support
A joint statement on Friday from the PCC and SDC stated that they are building support for SVG, and are working to supply as many items as possible on the country’s immediate urgent needs list.
Items needed include: 1000 water tanks (800 and 1000 gallons), 5000 buckets (5 gallons), 10,000 folding cages, 150 portable toilets, 30,000 blankets plus 50 field tents (20 feet x 20 feet) and (910 feet x 10 feet).
You also need two field kitchens, 3000 sleeping mats, 1000 respirator masks with filters, 25,000 goggles, 2000 reflective vests, 100 warning tapes (100ft roll), and 10,000 hygiene kits.
Moreover, President Ali told Guyana Times

The gray ash of Friday’s volcanic eruptions covered the streets and houses in north St. Vincent

that, in addition to this national stimulus, they are also seeking to establish a Disaster Relief Fund for St Vincent.
“So, all these efforts are being co-ordinated and brought together and very soon we should be able to put things together to send to St Vincent,” the Head of State noted.

GBTI Relief Fund
Meanwhile, in a statement on Friday night, Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Limited (GBTI) announced that it had established a Disaster Relief Fund to help the Caribbean island.
“We at GBTI are well known for helping our sister Caribbean Islands in times of these disasters as the bank assisted Bahamas when they were hit by the hurricane. Again, the bank has set up a disaster relief fund to help St Vincent called the St Vincent Disaster Relief Fund. Individuals who wish to donate can do so by visiting any of our GBTI branches and making their deposits into the fund…, ”noted the bank action.
The account in GBTI is called ST. VINCENT DISCUSSION FUND and account number is 011803403012.

La Soufriere volcano
At approximately 08: 41h on Friday, the La Soufriere volcano began to erupt with recorded ash plumes of up to 8 kilometers. There were at least two other explosions throughout the day – one at 14:45h (2:45 pm) that went about 4 km into the atmosphere, and the other around 18: 35h (6:35 pm).
The explosive blast had given the atmosphere a great deal of ash. The volcanic ash was reported to contain fine particles of volcanic rock shot into the air during the eruption and the prevailing wind conditions had taken the ash clouds in the northeast direction. Reports indicate that it may reach neighboring islands including Barbados.
The Geologist at UWA’s Seismic Research Center, Professor Richard Robertson, said during a press briefing on Friday morning that the volcano had erupted continuously overnight before starting to erupt.

According to Professor Robertson, although the first explosion was not a large one, more explosions are expected and these could last for days and even weeks.
Prime Minister Gonsalves on Thursday night declared a red alert and issued an evacuation order. Videos circulated on social media showed evacuees with luggage walking through the ash-covered streets with gray smog filling the air.
During an interview on NBC Radio in St Vincent on Friday night, Professor Robertson urged persons not to be in the ashes and to have their homes and other buildings secured to prevent the entry of the tiny particles.
“Look up and if you’re in it, you want to cover yourself with a type of mask – a dust mask is ideal but the mask we use for COVID could work too … You want not to breathe it in and avoid doing it … It’s not going to cause you to die but it could cause you serious health problems [especially] if you are prone to breathing problems, ”he explained.

No deaths
Prime Minister Gonsalves, meanwhile, during the same interview on Friday night revealed that no deaths were recorded from the explosion activities earlier in the day. He went on to encourage citizens in St Vincent to be patient, responsible, organized and offer help whenever they can.
“Let us all co-operate with each other,” he noted, while also recognizing and praising those who have stepped up to the task.
“Our own people have opened their doors to their families and friends … Sometimes they take people they don’t even know … The kindness and solidarity and ‘ r a good neighborhood; it is as stated in the New Testament. It’s so depressing, ”noted an emotional Dr Gonsalves.
In addition to refuges, hotels and guesthouses are also available in St. Vincent to accommodate those who had to be evacuated from the red zone area but people are required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to access these facilities.
In addition, there are four cruise ships on the island to transport people to neighboring countries but they will also have to be vaccinated to gain access to those nations.
PM St Vincent urged the citizens on the island to ensure they adhered to the COVID-19 protocols in the midst of the natural disaster.
“This is at the time of COVID and we have to protect each other’s health,” he stressed.
According to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Center in an update at 20:00h on Friday, lightning was visible in the ash column due to its highly charged nature. It was further reported that thunder, associated with the emitted particles, could be seen in the explosion column. Scientists continue to monitor the situation.
The La Soufriere volcano last erupted in 1979 with no deaths or injuries since the area was evacuated. However, a previous explosion in 1902 killed about 1600 people.

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