Premier offers assistance, prayers as St. Vincent rocked by volcanic eruption

Premier Alden McLaughlin has expressed concern and extended an offer of assistance to St. Vincent and the Grenadines as it grapples with the aftermath of the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano on Friday.

“I know everyone would want me to express to them publicly on behalf of the government and the people of these islands our very best wishes, our concern [for] what is happening there and whatever we can do to assist. I know the government will do its very best,” the premier said as he spoke about the eruption Thursday night.

By the time McLaughlin took the stage at a Progressives alliance meeting in Red Bay the eruption had already begun. He said it was “causing great issues for our regional neighbour”.

Mass evacuations were held Thursday on the islands. On Friday, the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre reported that the volcano “explosively” erupted spewing ash over nearby villages.

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Video footage of the explosive eruption earlier today. Taken at the Belmont Observatory by Dr Thomas Christopher. The explosive eruption at La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent has put a significant volume of ash into the atmosphere. Volcanic ash consists of fine particles of volcanic rock shot into the air during an explosive eruption. Prevailing wind conditions have directed the La Soufriere in a North-easterly direction. Communities across mainland St Vincent will experience varying degrees of ashfall. The Grenadines may also be affected. The Barbados Meteorological Services report that light ashfall can be expected in approximately two hours. Neighboring islands of St. Lucia and Grenada may also experience ashfall in coming hours. The ash plume may cause flight delays due to diversions. On the ground, ash can cause discomfort in persons suffering with respiratory illnesses and will impact water resources. The UWI-SRC continues to monitor #LaSoufrière and will update accordingly. #volcano #svg #uwiseismic

Posted by UWI Seismic Research Centre on Friday, April 9, 2021

According to a Reuters report, “the eruption sent dark ash plumes of up to 8 km (five miles) billowing into the sky and ash fall was recorded even at the Argyle International Airport, according to St. Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO)”.

A press release from the Office of the Premier issued Friday afternoon noted the connections people in Cayman have with the stricken island.

“Many persons in the Cayman Islands have friends and family who live in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent… [which] is now under a significant evacuation order as the volcano La Soufriere erupted yesterday,” the release said.

McLaughlin said in the release, “[O]ur thoughts and prayers are with everyone in St. Vincent at this time and we stand by to provide any support where necessary.”

He continued, “I have been a long-time friend of the Prime Minister who is the longest serving head of government since St. Vincent gained independence in 1979.”

Smoke spews from the glowing dome of the La Soufriere volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, April 8, 2021, in this image obtained from the University of West Indies Seismic Research Center. Courtesy of The UWI Seismic Research Centre/ via REUTERS.

Since the eruption, there has been an outpouring of regional support for the Caribbean islands impacted by the eruption.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in a statement Friday released by Jamaica Information Services, said he had spoken with Gonsalves, expressing solidarity with the government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines during “this challenging time and to assure him of Jamaica’s readiness to provide assistance.”

The statement said Prime Minister Gonsalves outlined the disaster-response arrangements in place through the efforts of the Vincentian government with the support of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Regional Security System as well as further measures to be implemented with the support of regional and international partners as well as the private sector.

“Both Prime Ministers expressed confidence in the arrangements thus far, even as they identified potential challenges and discussed areas within which Jamaica could assist. Prime Minister Holness committed to placing Jamaica’s Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART) at the ready, should they need to be deployed. The two leaders further agreed to remain in touch on evolving needs,” it added.

Within the framework of CDEMA, Jamaica is the focal point for disasters in the Northern Caribbean, however the Disaster Aide and Relief Team has provided emergency support in the Eastern Caribbean, the statement added.

Meanwhile Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman and Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has expressed his concern for the fellow member state and its residents.

“The Community stands with the Government and People of St Vincent and the Grenadines in this perilous situation,” he said in a statement last night.

Rowley said CARICOM has mobilised to support St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Following an evacuation order of the immediate area around the volcano by Prime Minister Dr the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, CARICOM Member States have offered support to house evacuees from the affected area. The scientific team from the University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Centre (SRC) has been in the country constantly monitoring the volcano and rendering scientific advice to the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added.

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency has been working alongside the St Vincent National Emergency Management Organisation, the SRC and the Regional Security System (RSS).

“CDEMA has activated its regional support operation including the deployment of a specialist to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Agency is providing technical assistance to NEMO with Evacuation and Logistics Planning,” he added.

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