–Eye on the island safely, stay tuned
–PM Gonsalves came to tears after CARICOM’s help
After weeks of increasing anxiety and monitoring, the La Soufrière volcano erupted on the Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines at 08:41 hours on Friday, according to the country’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).
NEMO announced, via Twitter: “An explosive explosion has been confirmed.” The organization subsequently highlighted that the volcano had moved into an explosive state, with feathers (the volcanic ash and gas emitted into the atmosphere) up to eight kilometers.
The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center (UWI-SRC), which had been monitoring the volcanic activity, reported through its Facebook page, that volcanic ash had begun to fall in surrounding communities.
As more information became available throughout the day, the center highlighted that a gentle ascent could occur in the neighboring Caribbean islands of Barbados, St Lucia and Grenada.
It was also reported that others were likely to occur after the initial explosion. Later, Friday afternoon, at 14:45 hours and then at 18: 35 hours, other explosions were recorded. Videos posted on social media by St. Vincent residents showed ashes spreading to communities. Rock particles spewed from the volcano appeared to be affecting some communities.
Rouchelle Cumberbatch, a Guyanese resident in St. Vincent, told the Guyana Chronicle that she was preparing to go to work at 09:00 hours when she became aware of the explosion. Although she had been preparing for this for a few weeks, if not months, the idea of a volcano erupting on the island was palpable.
Remarkably, Cumberbatch was still going to work, as she was a vital worker and because the volcano’s obvious effects would not affect the island area, where she lives. However, at work, she and her colleagues witnessed the second explosion. “We saw this huge column of air going up,” he remembered.
Although Cumberbatch and her family live in Kingston, which is found in the Southwestern part of the island, away from the “danger zone,” she highlighted that she was taking the necessary precautions. “While we were in the green zone, I prepared my water reserve, my tin cans and so on,” he said.
Importantly, she also noted that her parents-in-law experienced the last volcanic eruption on the island, in 1979, and were able to address any concerns she had.
Cumberbatch also related that many of the Guyanese on the island were familiar with one another, as they would socialize on national Guyanese festivals such as Mashramani and Independence Day. Like her, many live in the safe zone and reasoned that they would stay safe.
ERUPTIONS TO CONTINUE
News 784, reported in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said Geologist and Professor, Richard Robertson, said more explosions were expected soon and the first one wasn’t the biggest.
“In the event of a much larger explosion, the ash may spread further south, this could last for days or weeks, and monitoring will continue,” News 784 quoted Robertson as saying.
On Thursday April 8, the government issued an evacuation notice for people living in the Red Zone, which is the northernmost part of the island, where the volcano is located. This is known as the “danger zone,” along with the Orange Zone (just south of the Red Zone). Over 20,000 people have been evacuated from the Red Zone; Evacuation of the red and orange zones was halted Friday, due to the heavy ash fall that caused poor visibility.
In a press release from UWI-SRC, Professor Robertson said the areas of pyroclastic flow (hot gas and fast-moving volcanic material) and surges were those communities identified as red and orange zones . Ashes may affect the rest of the island – the southernmost areas, designated as “yellow” and “green” zones – depending on wind direction, UWI says. The scientific team from UWI-SRC has been on the island since December 2020 when activity was first detected. UWI noted that on April 8, the team recorded seven bands of tremor every two and a half hours; a small volcano-tectonic swarm was also found.
High periods of steam and gas ventilation coincided with the tremor. Vibration, according to UWI, is a continuous seismic signal usually associated with the movement of magma to the surface. It is important to note that the last explosion at La Soufrière was on April 13, 1979. That date was the second Friday in April. NEMO, via Twitter, highlighted that this explosion also occurred on the second Friday of April, four days before its explosion anniversary.
In the midst of the unfolding natural disaster in St Vincent, Guyana and several countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) he has confirmed their assistance to Vincentian Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, and his people.
On Thursday, after Prime Minister Gonsalves issued evacuation orders, the Government of Guyana indicated that it was ready to provide support to the island. This assurance was given by the President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, Thursday evening.
“Given the emerging situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines, this afternoon [Thursday], I called the Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and reassured him of Guyana’s full support in dealing with this impending crisis, ”President Ali said in a statement.
He added: “The First Minister and I discussed immediate support, which will be required in the response. The First Minister noted that, besides the need to evacuate citizens, there were other urgent needs. ”
Dr. Ali, having received the full list of island needs, Guyana would immediately draw up a national response to supply the items and arrange for them to be shipped to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“At this time, we would like to secure the unwavering support and solidarity of St Vincent and the Guyana Grenadines,” concluded the Guyanese Head of State. Similar sentiments were also expressed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd.
On Friday, after the explosion, Guyana’s Private Sector Commission (PSC) collaborated with the Civil Defense Commission (CDC) to mobilize support for St. Vincent and Grenadines. The supplies that were being arranged would help to address the immediate needs of the people. These supplies include: water tanks, buckets, coats, blankets, pots, field tents and kitchens, sleeping mats, hygiene kits, among other things.
Individuals wishing to donate items can contact the CDC at phone numbers, 226-1114, 226-8815, 225-5847, 226-1027, 600-7500, 225-5347, 225-0977 or 225-5339.
In addition, Guyana Bank of Trade and Industry Limited (GBTI) has established the St. Disaster Relief Fund. Vincent to help the island as it deals with the disaster. Individuals who wish to donate can do so by visiting any GBTI branch. Account Name is: ST. VINCENT DISCUSSION FUND, while Account Number is: 011803403012.
BROUGHT TO TEARS
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves burst into tears on Friday during an emergency press briefing held after the initial explosion, due to 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… to put people in their homes… strangers… bring tears to my eyes. I love this Caribbean, ”he underlined, wiping away his tears. Much like Gonsalves, Cumberbatch said she was also amazed at the deportation of the love and support of the island’s Caribbean neighbors. He said it was heartbreaking to see the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines coming together to help each other, too. The First Minister also gave an update on the evacuation efforts and thanked all the people involved in getting the Vincentians to safety. Then he said, over 2,000 people were already in 20 different shelters in other parts of the country. Despite the country’s continued experience with the volcano, the Prime Minister acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic was also an overarching concern. To this end, he highlighted that people would need to be tested for the new coronavirus and vaccinated before going to these places.
Gonsalves also said: “This is not simple to be like a hurricane, where it could be a seven day business, or in some cases a two day business. Professor Robinson had indicated that it could be for months depending on the size of the explosion and the damage done. “