Guyana on standby to provide volcano relief to St Vincent

Last Updated on Thursday, 8 April 2021, 21:23 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali on Thursday said the Guyana government was on standby to provide relief to St. Vincent where residents in the northeastern part of the island were ordered to evacuate because a the La Soufriere volcano could explode at any time.

The Guyanese leader said he and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves spoke earlier Thursday and he pledged Guyana’s assistance.

“I committed to him that Guyana, upon receiving the full list of their needs, would immediately put together a national response to supply the items and arrange for them to be shipped to St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Dr. Ali said.

Dr. Gonsalves Thursday afternoon confirmed speaking with several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders including the President of Guyana. There is a small number of Guyanese living in St. Vincent.

The Vincentian leader said at least 20,000 residents in the danger zone have been ordered to evacuate to shelters or off island by sea to neighbouring Caribbean islands such as Dominica, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr. Gonsalves said two United States-headquartered cruise lines have agreed to send cruise ships to take evacuees off island, but they would first have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, COVID-19. The Head of the National Emergency Management Organisation, Simone Forbes said a “red alert” has been issued following reports by seismologists after several earthquakes and the spewing of gas and steam from the new dome. “Our alert level is raised now to red alert. It means that an explosive eruption is imminent so we have raised the alert level to red and an evacuation order has been given,” she said.

Similarly, the Prime Minister said evacuees who would be seeking refuge in government-operated shelters would also have to be inoculated against the potentially deadly virus. “We are strongly recommending that you be vaccinated for your own health and for that of the other persons in the shelters. We don’t want to have an outbreak of COVID in the shelters,” he said.

Dr. Gonsalves appealed to residents to be calm.

Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Gonsalves said he had sought assistance from the United States Southern Command and Venezuela.

He also announced that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has asked the World Bank to fast-track the release of funds from a special facility that had been in the pipeline before the declaration of an emergency.

The La Soufriere volcano rumbled back to life about three months ago, after going back to sleep since its last eruption in 1979.