“It’s like a desert, it’s barren, it’s apocalyptic. The whole place is covered in gray ash,” Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, told CNN of the communities affected by the eruption.
It has been 42 years since the volcano La Soufrière – French for sulfur outlet – erupted. The 4,094 foot high stratovolcano now makes up for lost time and blows ash and debris for miles into the air and onto neighboring islands.
Then, on April 9, at 8:51 a.m., the National Emergency Management announced that La Soufrière had broken out.
Thanks to the early evacuations, no deaths or injuries have been reported as a result of the outbreak, according to official figures. But more than 7,000 residents have sought refuge in government-run shelters and a greater number are staying with friends or family, said Gonsalves, the left-wing, biblically quoted prime minister of the island chain, nicknamed “Comrade Ralph”. “”
With more than 10% of the island chain’s 110,000 residents at least temporarily homeless, the local government lacks the resources to meet all needs, he said.
“We are unable to make the humanitarian effort, we are unable to carry out the recovery, we will not be able to do so without substantial support from the region and the world community. We really are in the midnight hour Not, “said Gonsalves.
As the volcano continues to spew ash and pyroclastic currents, a deadly mixture of overheated gases, rocks and mud, the ongoing danger has hampered efforts to seek relief.
“It’s not like a hurricane that hits you and is over,” said Britnie Turner, CEO of Aerial Recovery Group, a civil protection company that brings in supplies from the United States.
The pandemic has also hampered efforts to help the Vincentians affected by the volcano, she said.
“Donations around the world have decreased dramatically since Covid started, but don’t stop donating,” Turner said. “Even if we are all in pain. Even if the world is a little different, we have to help our neighbors.”
In Miami, Michael Capponi, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Global Empowerment Mission, fills containers with prepackaged boxes of food, water, face masks and hand gel to be sent to the island.
He called the disaster a “migration crisis” as residents fled the volcano to the south of the island, and said his local partners on the ground were still unable to assess the full extent of the damage.
“You have a foot of ashes on every roof,” said Capponi. “You have all of the crops that are completely destroyed and not growing back for a while. Then you have burning boulders that literally came through people’s roofs.”
Gonsalves said the government estimates the volcano has already caused more than $ 100 million in damage in the past two weeks, with the likelihood much higher as scientists predict the volcanic activity could last four months.
The Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1st and even if St. Vincent is spared a direct hit, the heavy summer rains pose a new threat.
“There’s a lot of material,” said Gonsalves. “Rock and ash and they rest on mud. The rain will smear and they will add weight and they will come down at a very fast pace.”
Gonsalves said the disaster his country is facing is only just beginning. He said he asked for assistance from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
“It will not be an easy fight, but we are not a lamenting people,” he said.
Read Also :