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Volcanic Eruption Leaves ‘entire Population’ Of Saint Vincent Without Clean Water

Navin Pato Patterson

Last week’s eruption of La Soufrière volcano 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.

Plumes of ash billow from the La Soufriere volcano on the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines which started erupting on 9th April.

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.

Limited humanitarian access

Emphasizing that access to the island is limited, Mr. Dujarric said that along with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the UN has 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.

The aid includes relief items, food and cash distribution and technical advice while neighbouring countries are contributing emergency supplies and assets to support evacuation, according to the UN spokesperson.

Continuing threat

Meanwhile, OCHA reported that as of yesterday, intervals between tremors have 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.

At the request of the Prime Minister, the UN has also mobilized experts through the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) to develop and implement a debris management plan, including to clean up ash and promote environmental health and safety.

Situation overview

  • Airports in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are closed.
  • Maritime assets are limited.
  • Approximately 30 villages have been evacuated.
  • Between 16,000 and 20,000 people have been affected.
  • Some 3,500 people are in 85 shelters.
  • The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have deployed to support health and humanitarian efforts.

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