Basseterre, St. Kitts, April 09, 2021 (SKNIS): The National Disaster Mitigation Council convened an emergency meeting on April 9 to mobilize support to assist persons affected by the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent.
The meeting, which was held at the Antioch Baptist Church in Limekiln, was attended by Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris; Chair of the National Disaster Mitigation Council (NDMC) and Chair of the Ministerial Council for the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Hon. Vincent Byron Jr.; Hon. Wendy Phipps, Co-Chair of NDMC; the Hon. Akilah Byron-Nisbett, Minister of Health; National Disaster Coordinator, Mr. Abdias Samuel (Chair of the Meeting); representatives from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce; NGO’s; Security Heads; and senior government officials.
La Soufriere volcano erupted on the morning of April 9, spewing its guts 8 km into the air, and covering a significant part of St. Vincent.
Minister Byron Jr. said that “despite months and months of preparation and planning on paper when it came to the actual implementation, there has been some difficulty.”
“We are here today not just to be informed about this but for St. Kitts and Nevis to galvanize ourselves in an effort to see in what ways we can support our neighbouring islands and St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a part of the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States), CARICOM (Caribbean Community), part of the CDEMA family of nations, and so we want to be in a position to lend any assistance we can give,” said Minister Byron Jr. “We know that the northern part of St. Vincent has had to be evacuated and the figures range between 16, 000 to 20, 000 persons that have to be moved.”
He said that some persons will be accommodated in St. Vincent, while others will have to be evacuated to neighbouring islands. He indicated that St. Kitts and Nevis is considering support, which can in logistics, financial support, skilled personnel, accepting displaced persons, or civil society contributions.
Prime Minister Harris, who said he had communicated with Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, said that he was informed that 8000 persons were expected to find accommodation with family or friends, 12, 000 were to be evacuated to shelters, but that the country only had the capacity to cater for 5000 persons, and that 7000 will have to move to other islands within the OECS, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. Additionally, he said that two cruise ships have agreed to help with the accommodation of persons for some time.
Dr. Harris said that the option remains of assisting St. Vincent with material resources and that the country had requested cots, blankets, and peripheral water tanks. He also said that plans were afoot to have the displaced persons tested for COVID-19 and inoculated.
“Cabinet is committed. Cabinet will be a good Samaritan on this particular effort. We want to be our brothers’ keeper and our sisters’ keeper too, but we have to do it in the most efficient way,” Prime Minister Harris said.
Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director of CDEMA, who gave an update on the situation on the ground in St. Vincent, began by expressing solidarity with the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines at this difficult time.
“I think the situation really reiterates the realities of the multi-hazard environment in which we all operate as members of the CDEMA system and in this particular case we have our complex incidences of COVID-19, which is affecting all of us, volcanic eruption, which this morning has transitioned to an explosive eruption and of course we have the upcoming hurricane season,” Ms. Riley said.
She added: “As you are aware, we have been notified by the seismic research centre this morning that approximately 20 minutes to 9 or so that La Soufriere volcano transitioned from an effusive type of eruption to an explosive one. We have been told that most persons have been evacuated from the red zone, which is the high-risk zone. The explosive eruption has posed some challenges with respect to visibility and in fact, hindered the pace of some of the evacuation efforts in-country.”
In the coming days, the National Disaster Mitigation Council with collaboration from the private and public sector will finalize concretely what assistance will be offered to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.