First release carrier to sail tomorrow – Guyana Times
St Vincent volcanic eruption
– most Guyanese were there for the time being – Head of the Diaspora Unit
As St. Vincent and the Grenadines continue to struggle with thick layers of ash now covering the entire island as a result of the La Soufrière volcano eruption, thousands of Guyanese there are now being cared for as Guyana prepares to send her first shipment of relief tomorrow. This is according to the Head of the Diaspora Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Guyana, Rosalinda Rasul, who is one of the point persons in contact with the Guyana Consulate team on the island. He explained that there are currently just over 3000 Guyanese living in the country – about three percent of the island’s population. According to Rasul, information coming out in St Vincent indicates that most of these people are currently seeking accommodation in private homes and not at any of the shelters set up by the SVG Government . However, the Diaspora spokesman noted that checks are still being carried out at the more than 100 shelters in St Vincent to find out if there are any Guyanese there. “But we know for sure that they’re all safe, they’re all out of the danger zone,” he said. Rasul explained that about 1400 Guyanese lived in the Red Zone (areas close to the emptied volcano) but these people were relocated. “The Honorary Consul of Guyana for St Vincent and the Grenadines has been working with Guyanese since last December, when he was confronted with the news that the volcano had begun to show signs of being active. And they started making preparations and even as early as January, they have been quietly moving out of the Red Zone area. So at that time the evacuation order was issued [last Thursday], most of them would have already been emptied safely, ”he noted. President Dr Irfaan Ali has introduced a national mobilization effort to fulfill a list of emergency items sent by the Government of St Vincent and Grenadines. It had indicated on Saturday that the first of many other ships will be off within 48 hours. According to Rasul, a ship is supposed to leave Guyana on Tuesday with these relief items. He outlined that while that first ship will be sent to the SVG Government through the country’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), the Guyana Consulate will also get some of the items to be distributed to the diaspora there. In fact, the newly appointed Head of the Diaspora Unit noted that, although Guyanese needs are currently being considered, they anticipate that this will not last as long as the ongoing volcanic eruptions are likely to last for days or weeks. As such, Rasul noted that she is in constant contact with the Honorary Consul at SVG to find out what necessities are required by the Guyanese diaspora there. He further related that one of the items they are looking at is special masks required to protect against volcanic ash. Details of this mask, he said, have been passed to the team leading the national assembly and are hoping to acquire this for another shipment that will be shipped to the island state. In addition, that tribe could also see relief packages specifically for Guyanese. During a previous interview with Guyana Times, President of the Guyanese Society in St Vincent, Gwyneth Cambridge had indicated that they hope that, along with the urgent items being sent to the St Vincent’s Government, there will also be relief items for Guyanese . To this end, Rasul noted that the grassroots team at SVG will know through their fieldwork what Guyanese needs will emerge over the next few days. Meanwhile, several Guyanese have signaled that they are ready to wait out the natural disasters crisis on the island state. But the Government of Guyana has already assured that anyone who wants to return home will receive assistance. The La Soufrière volcano began to erupt on Friday and heavy ash has left most of St Vincent and the Grenadines covered in dense ash and the strong smell of sulfur filling the air. The volcanic ash moved with the winds and is now affecting neighboring islands including Barbados – which is experiencing the most – St Lucia, and now Grenada. Others are like being affected as the explosions continue. In an update at 18:00h on Sunday, the University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Center said seismic activity at La Soufrière continued with short episodes of high amplitude seismic vibration, each lasting about 20 minutes and with gaps between one to six hours recorded. “The episodes seemed to coincide with periods of enhanced venting or explosive activity. The background level of seismic tremor between the episodes has been slowly increasing since about 10:30 am (Sunday)… The volcano continues to explode explosively in producing large amounts of ash. Associated explosions and falls, of a similar size or larger, are likely to continue over the next few days affecting St Vincent and neighboring islands, ”the SRC said Sunday night. In the meantime, ash samples have been collected to be sent abroad for testing to find out what’s in it and how harmful it can be to people. However, UWA Geologist Professor Richard Robertson, who is leading the response at La Soufrière, has previously said that although the volcanic ash is not lethal, it is not healthy and can cause breathing problems . In addition, SRC PCA reported in its update on Sunday that “steaming” was observed in the upper reaches of the Rabacca valley around noon and the cause of these phenomena is currently being investigated. Professor Roberston explained that they had received reports – and seen video – of pyroclastic flows, where instead of materials (rocks, gas and other particles) flowing into the air it collapses on itself and runs down the sides the mountains, destroying everything in its path. “What that tells us is that, in addition to the ventures that are taking place, these kinds of things can happen now and are starting to happen which means the volcano itself – Mountain Soufriere and any not only would they have had to survive the ashes but now they have the potential to be destroyed by these flows going down the mountain, ”he said in an update Sunday morning on NBC Radio in St Vincent. The geologist explained that La Soufrière does not have lava but pyroclastic flows, which have many boulders and clouds of “hot gusty wind”, can also spread into the sea and create a foam of hot air that could burn anything in its path and length in the age of scalding people. With this activity now found, Professor Roberston and Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines have pleaded with individuals still in the Red and Orange Zone areas of the island to go out.