Volcanic eruption leaves ‘entire population’ of Saint Vincent without clean water

By Rumi Samuel Published on April 14, 2021
Volcanic eruption leaves ‘entire population’ of Saint Vincent without clean water

Last week’s La Soufrière volcano eruption in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has left the entire population of the main island without clean water and electricity, the UN Spokesperson said on Monday. 

Citing reports from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Stéphane Dujarric added that about 20,000 evacuees on the Caribbean island are currently in need of shelter. 

“The eruption has affected most livelihoods in the northern part of the island, including banana farming, with ash and lava flows hampering the movement of people and goods,” he told journalists at the daily news briefing. 

Although the volcano had been dormant since 1979, it started spewing smoke and actively rumbling in December.  La Soufrière erupted last Friday, blanketing Saint Vincent in a layer of ash and forcing some 16,000 residents to evacuate their homes to cruise ships and safer parts of the island.

Emphasizing that access to the island is limited, Mr. Dujarric said that along with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the UN had mobilized pre-positioned water and sanitation hygiene supplies currently stored in nearby Barbados. 

Over the weekend, the Secretary-General spoke to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, and the Government officially asked for UN assistance. According to the UN spokesperson, the aid includes relief items, food, cash distribution, and technical advice, while neighboring countries contribute emergency supplies and assets to support evacuation.

Meanwhile, OCHA reported that as of yesterday, intervals between tremors had lasted between 1.5 to 3 hours, which, based on visual observations and satellite imagery, are associated with periods of explosive activity or enhanced venting of the volcano.  

“Explosions and accompanying ashfall of similar or larger magnitude are likely to continue to occur over the next few days,” according to the UN humanitarian office. The Prime Minister request the UN to mobilize experts through the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) to develop and implement a debris management plan, including cleaning up the ash and promoting environmental health and safety. 

On the same note, singer M.I.A. has started a crowdfunding campaign supporting people affected by the volcanic eruptions. She. announced the fundraiser on Instagram overnight, saying the island country “has been very close to [her] heart.” The GoFundMe page currently has a target of £100,000, a fifth of which has already been pledged. Funds raised will go towards purchasing essential supplies and providing emergency travel.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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