Disasters & Accidents

UN warns of humanitarian crisis due to La Soufriere volcano eruption

San Juan, Apr 14 (EFE).- The United Nations coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq, said Wednesday that the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines could cause a humanitarian crisis for its 110,000 inhabitants.

Trebucq, in a virtual press conference, said the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano, in constant activity since Friday, makes us face a humanitarian crisis that could also affect, to a lesser extent, neighboring islands.

“This crisis may last more than six months,” said the UN official, who called for international aid as a higher priority, adding that the agencies operating in the region have provided their aid effectively so far.

Trebucq said the water supply system on the island of Saint Vincent, where the volcano is located, is completely paralyzed and that its population is completely dependent on food arriving by boat from neighboring islands.

Harvey Farrell, Saint Vincent’s Red Cross vice president, told EFE on Wednesday that to prevent contaminated water from reaching the population, the supplier company has interrupted the supply, so it is distributed by means of tanker trucks.

Trebucq said there are about 4,000 people distributed in more than 80 shelters throughout Saint Vincent, who have, for now, enough food.

The UN official said another priority is to prevent ash from reaching the population and causing health problems.

“There are about 20,000 people exposed to the effects of the ash,” he said, adding that it is not known how long the eruption will continue, but that the effect of its consequences could last up to six months.

Trebucq said the situation is especially complicated once the eruption overlaps with the Covid-19 health crisis.

“It is very complicated that it coincides with the coronavirus [pandemic],” he said.

He said that ongoing volcanic eruptions have displaced about 20 percent of the people living on Saint Vincent.

In total, about 20,000 people were evacuated by order of the government before the La Soufriere volcano erupted for the first time Friday on the island, the largest in the country, which was covered in ash, like Barbados and others nearby isles.

Trebucq said thousands of people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity, given the loss of assets in terms of livelihoods such as fishing or agriculture.

He said the priority is to meet the needs of the nearly 4,000 people housed in the shelters, which include cots and basic supplies, sanitation, hygiene and emergency latrines.

He added that there will be medium and long-term consequences due to the socioeconomic impact on the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as those of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis, among others.

Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said Wednesday at a press conference that the population must strictly adhere to measures against Covid-19 to avoid outbreaks of the virus.

Gonsalves said it is essential not to neglect health measures to prevent the pandemic from advancing on the main island of the country.

He said the needs of those who remained in their homes should also be determined, after telling the communities closest to the volcano to evacuate as soon as possible, since the explosions continue and are causing new pyroclastic flows.

The explosion that began Friday produced only ash, but pyroclastic flows have multiplied with the new explosions.

The volcano had a minor eruption in December, after the historic one recorded in 1979.

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