Member States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and other countries of the wider Caribbean were on standby yesterday to assist residents of their sister country – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who were forced to flee their homes due to explosive eruptions from the La Soufriere volcano in that country.
The Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA), through its Disaster Preparedness Committee, yesterday activated its Port Response Plan to facilitate and receive evacuees.
The plan identifies the George F.L Charles Airport and the Castries Seaport as the designated entry points for evacuees. SLASPA is working closely with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to ensure adherence to the Ministry’s stipulated COVID 19 protocols.
“Since the initial pronouncement of activity at the La Soufriere Volcano, the Authority reviewed and strengthened various aspects of its port operations. Our Airports Division is in active dialogue with the Eastern Caribbean Air Traffic Management Group to activate contingency plans for potential aviation disruption. As well, our Maritime and Seaports Divisions are working assiduously to ensure business continuity,” SLASPA’s General Manager, Mr. Daren Cenac said yesterday.
Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet who spoke to the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, indicated Saint Lucia’s readiness to assist in light of the latest developments in the latter’s country.
Saint Lucia’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) has been in preparation mode for some time to assist Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as well as areas which may be affected in Saint Lucia, in particular the south of the island, if the eruptions from the La Soufriere volcano are powerful enough to disrupt air quality and affect living situations in the Vieux Fort and surrounding areas.
“In light of the latest information and the evacuation order issued in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet has instructed NEMO to be on high alert and to accelerate plans to assist,” a spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Meanwhile, the Grenadian government has also shown its support for the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell is on record assuring his Vincentian colleague of his government’s readiness to assist Vincentians.
Dr. Mitchell reaffirmed the country’s pledge of 1,600 beds at St. George’s University to accommodate persons who may need to be evacuated. This pledge was initially made in December last year, following an emergency meeting of OECS leaders.
The Grenadian leader said his Vincentian counterpart had assured him that persons being evacuated will be required to have at the very least, their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Jamaica is also standing in solidarity with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday said that his country is ready to provide assistance to Vincentians. He said he spoke to P.M. Gonsalves assuring him of Jamaica’s readiness to provide assistance.
Antigua and Barbuda has also offered to house Vincentians displaced as a result of the volcano.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) also stands with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in this perilous situation, according to a statement from the regional body.
The La Soufriere volcano has been agitating since last December, however, two days ago it showed clearer signs of an explosive eruption, leaving no one in doubt yesterday at about 8:40 am when the first explosive eruption occurred.
Persons living near the volcano and within an area designated as the Red Zone were ordered to evacuate the area Thursday.