Guyana to send emergency aid to St. Vincent tomorrow

– great relief to send later
–MM Gonsalves says he is in constant communication with President Ali

By Vishani Ragobeer

GUYANA will send relief items to the Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines by tomorrow, following the country’s La Soufrière volcano eruption on Friday, according to a statement from the President’s Office.

On Saturday, President Dr. Irfaan Ali, Prime Minister Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips, and Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo held an emergency meeting at State House with members of the Civil Defense Commission (CDC) and the Private Sector to coordinate an emergency response to help CARICOM’s sister nation, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Guyana is aiming to send relief items over the next 48 hours,” the statement, which was circulated on Saturday evening, highlighted. It was also noted that the team had thrown up ideas on the quickest route to getting supplies to the islands, as flight was prohibited. The statement also highlighted that President Ali emphasized the importance of getting the relief items to the country quickly, and encouraged attendees to put all systems in place to achieve it in the fastest time possible.

La Soufrière, after it exploded (Photo courtesy of Nick Spencer)

Importantly, it was noted that this emergency response was expected to be the first of many Guyana. A subsequent statement by the President’s Office highlighted that Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, who was also at the meeting on Saturday, was in contact with the honorary consul in relation to Guyanese on the islands.
“We have been quite comforted that the Guyanese there are being cared for. There is no request to move or anything, ”the President was quoted as saying.
The Guyana Bank of Commerce and Industry Limited (GBTI) has already established the St. Disaster Relief Fund. Vincent to help the island as it deals with the disaster. Individuals wishing to make a donation to the cause can do so by visiting any of the GBTI branches. The name of the account is: ST. VINCENT DISCUSSION FUND, while Account Number is: 011803403012.

In addition, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) is cooperating with the CDC to mobilize support for St. Vincent and Grenadines. The supplies that are arranged will help to address the immediate needs of the people. These supplies include, among other things: Water tanks, buckets, coats, blankets, pots, field tents and kitchens, sleeping mats, and hygiene kits. Individuals wishing to donate items can contact the CDC at telephone numbers: 226-1114, 226-8815, 225-5847, 226-1027, 600-7500, 225-5347, 225-0977 or 225-5339.

Anil Jiandani, a Guyanese businessman living in St. Vincent, told the Sunday Chronicle that the country needs drinking water, non-perishable foods and hygiene supplies, as these items are rare in the shelters set up in the zoning safe in the southern part of the country. He suggested that these items can be shipped to the country in a container.
Speaking to the situation on the ground, Jiandani said: “Everything is covered in dust; they got a lot of ash and sulfur here … It’s pretty bad, actually; the explosion is much bigger than the one in 1979. ”

According to the Office of the President, Prime Minister Phillips is expected to meet with the CDC again on Sunday to evaluate progress. The CDC’s Director General, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, noted that the Commission will be working round the clock to procure the needed items.

To date, it has already committed itself to supplying drinking water, personal protective equipment, hygiene and sanitary supplies, water tanks and shelter supplies.
“Banks DIH has supplied water (5 gallon bottles to fill a 20-foot container), John Fernandes Limited has donated a 20-foot container and a 40-foot container (to send items to St. Vincent), and Gaico Construction and General Services has pledged two charter flights to the island of CARICOM, ”noted the Lieutenant Colonel.
DDL and several other large companies are also committed to donating items.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali, Prime Minister Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips, and Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo during
meeting at State House, on Saturday, with members of the Civil Defense Commission (CDC) and the Private Sector
(President’s Office photo)

The press release also noted that, as of Saturday afternoon, the PSC had raised several million in cash commitments and much-needed items. Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) President Rafeek Khan also noted that the association has secured financial commitments. In addition to the relief items, it was highlighted that the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) was on hand in case they were needed on the ground following the explosion.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, during his talk on Saturday morning to his countrymen, that he had been engaging with the governments in the wider Caribbean region.

“The President of Guyana has been in contact with me quite often,” said the Vincentian Prime Minister, adding: “They load a ship to send lots of supplies.” He also highlighted that President Ali had informed him of private sector cooperation, including the special account set up to send relief to the island. The President’s Office indicated that the two leaders would be engaged again on Saturday night.


Volcanic ash covering buildings and surfaces in the
northern part of St. Vincent (Photo courtesy of the Caribbean
Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)

The volcano erupted at 08: 41hrs on Friday, after the government issued an evacuation warning for people living in the Red Zone, which is in the northernmost part of the volcano island, on Thursday night. This evacuation order was issued following an increase in seismic activity, indicating that the volcano would soon erupt. The Red Zone is referred to as “the danger zone”, together with the Orange Zone (the area just south of the Red Zone).

News 784, reported in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said Geologist and Professor Richard Robertson said more explosions were expected soon, and that the first one was not the largest.

“In the event of a much larger explosion, the ash may spread further south. This could last for days or weeks, and the monitoring will continue, ”News 784 quoted Robertson as saying.

It was also reported that others were likely to occur after the initial explosion. Later, Friday afternoon, at 14:45 hrs and then at 18: 35hrs, other explosions were recorded. At 05: 00a on Saturday, yet another explosion was recorded. Videos posted on social media by St. Vincent residents showed ash spreading to communities, covering buildings and surfaces. On Saturday, Barbados Today reported that the ash had spread to Barbados.

In the midst of the natural disaster unfolding in St Vincent, several other countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have also affirmed their assistance to the Vincentian Prime Minister and his people. Dr. Gonsalves was moved to tears on Friday during an emergency press briefing held after the initial explosion, because of the support the country received from its sister states CARICOM.

He said Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica should be ready to receive Vincentian citizens by Monday. Some hotels and guesthouses have been closed to prepare for their arrival, while some have offered to let Vincentians stay in their private homes.

“Amazing, eh! On this dangerous road to Jericho, we have the good Samaritans. Putting people into their homes; strangers, bring tears to my eyes! I love this Caribbean! ”He underlined, wiping the tears. Meanwhile, Guyana’s Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon, through a statement issued Friday, called on the government here to accommodate those Vincentians who need to be evacuated. Harmon also promised opposition support to the people of St Vincent.