We knew it was coming, but it was still a sobering sight to see pictures of that 3-mile plume of smoke and ash belted out of the La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines following multiple eruptions on Friday. It reminded us that Mother Nature can sometimes be cruel to us humans as their everyday events unfold within their own dynamics and logic. In this case, molten rocks (lava) beneath its crust had once again escaped, as did eons back through crack. The lava had accumulated to form the exact island where Mt Soufriere the volcano is the highest point.
“Soufriere” means “sulfur outlet” in French, and reminds us that the WI tear in the earth’s crust is not confined to St Vincent, but has formed the neighboring islands of Dominica, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, which have ” Soufrieres ”all. It also reminds us that the idea of ​​”hell”, with its molten sulfur underground, has been taken very literally by the Europeans. St. Vincent’s “Soufriere” has exploded five times in recorded history, the most recent being in 1979. The one on May 6, 1902 was the deadliest, and took nearly 2000 lives, most of them Caribbean Indigenous, whose culture and existence were almost completely erased. But the damage in St Vincent is palpable compared to Mt Pelée’s concurrent one in nearby Martinique, which took 29,000 lives.
This history is a reminder of the destructive potential of the “forces of nature”. Fortunately, since that explosion that began in the 20th century, the authorities have been very proactive in dealing with their impact. No lives were lost, for example, in the 1979 eruption, and in this case, there were physical warnings of impending volcanic activity since last December. These were monitored by the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center, and as such, when the “red alert” was issued last Friday, the evacuation plans were for 16,000 residents of the “zone red ”around the volcano, in the largest north. part of the island, kicked into action.
Today, it is expected, the evacuation would be complete, but as the volcanic activity is forecast to last for months, these 16,000 people would have to be housed and otherwise accommodated during that time. This is beyond the capabilities of the government of this island of only 100,000 people, and as such we, the people of the Caribbean, will have to lead the way in caring for our brothers and sisters. The revelation that nearly 5,000 people of Guyanese descent live in St. Vincent – not necessarily in the “red zone” – must have been shocking, but a reminder that when the Burnhamite dictatorship reduced our nation to benury, the small Caribbean islands – members of Caricom – provide supper for thousands of our citizens.
It was therefore most appropriate that President Irfaan Ali, along with several other heads of CariCom States, immediately called Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to offer decisive support to his nation. Not that it’s quid pro quo, but Guyanese should never forget when PM Gonsalves, then incoming Chairman of Caricom – rose to the occasion when the PNC was trying to rig another election and advised David Granger to “take it” d lick like a man ”.
It is very unfortunate that this tragedy erupted when St Vincent, like the rest of us, is crashing from the COVID-19 pandemic. They have recorded 1789 cases, 10 of which resulted in deaths. While this is three times better than our death rate, the evacuation reality can force people to ignore social distance and other COVID-19 protocols and, as such, will all have to be vaccinated. Because of this threat, the region will also have to offer St Vincent some of its vaccine supply in addition to the food, clothing, tents etc. mentioned.
Every Guyanese must rise to the occasion and offer help.

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