St. Lucia Prepared to Help Vincentians if La Soufriere Volcano Erupts

Caribbean National Weekly reports that Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has announced that St Lucia is prepared to take in residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the event that the current activity at the La Soufriere Volcano intensifies.

Last month, Vincentians were told to be on alert after the volcano, dormant for decades, began acting up once again. The volcano was last active in 1979 when an eruption claimed the lives of 1000 people. So far, while there has been no explosion, steam, gas and a volcanic dome, formed by lava, can be seen.

“If there is an evacuation of the immediate area, a lot of lands would be vacated and clearly, there may need to be assistance provided by sister islands to assist them with that,” Chastanet said. The Prime Minister added that he is in dialogue with several hoteliers, some of who have not opened up their properties due to the pandemic, but say they will consider making rooms available to Vincentians. “Certainly we’re having to put a contingency plan in place, that if we need to help them with medical support, ie. Using the respiratory centre as a backup for them as to how we would potentially do that and certainly using Hewanorra Airport as much as possible as another source of getting personnel into St. Vincent.”

Chastanet says St Lucia and the rest of the member states of the OECS are in discussions and monitoring the situation in St Vincent closely.

A close eye is also being kept on Martinique where the volcano there is also showing signs of activity, but not as severe as La Soufriere.

“I was very heartened by the level of camaraderie among all of the islands, offering hotel space and personnel. We do have 85 Cuban doctors and nurses who are still here with us letting St. Vincent know that they’re available to them if needs be and the other islands we’re doing the same thing. Dominica Antigua, the BVI all of the countries were offering a tremendous amount of support to Prime Minister Gonzalves and to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

According to Prime Minister Chastanet, past experiences with the Montserrat Volcano is guiding the current response that includes the impact of ash in islands across the region and the possibility of tsunamis.

A major eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano in 1997 killed 19 people, devastating the south of the island, burying the capital, Plymouth. Lava from that eruption also landed on St Lucia’s south coast. More than half the population left Montserrat and relocated throughout the region.

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Photo above: University of West Indies Seismic Research Centre/National Emergency Management Organization of St Vincent and the Grenadines via Reuters.]

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