By Kurt Campbell
With several warnings long in advance and evacuation commencing late on Thursday night, the 4,049-foot La Soufrière volcano erupted on St. Vincent and the Grenadines early on Friday.
According to reports, it sent a more than a two-mile high cloud of ash billowing above the tropical Caribbean island. Guyana has pledged support to the people of St Vincent, but Guyanese who live and work there, are reported safe, hours after the volcano erupted.
There are over 4,000 Guyanese living in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The News Room understands that Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has been in contact with the Honourary Consul on the island and has been informed that all Guyanese in the affected areas have been relocated and are being accommodated by other Guyanese.
They are, however, concerned about the days ahead.
Speaking with the News Room from the hazy Island of St Vincent where he has been working as an Aircraft Engineer since 2015, Guyanese, Nicholas Johnson, says he is in the green zone, marked safe from the immediate effects of a volcano that erupted North of the Island on Friday.
Noting that he is well connected to the Guyanese population there, Johnson says as far as he knows, they are also in the green zone even as evacuation efforts continue for persons located in the red zones.
“I’ve been in contact with quite a few of my Guyanese colleagues and all of them are safe at this point and time… I am in the green zone and so are most of the persons I know, actually, all of the persons I know from Guyana are in the green zone as well,” Johnson said.
Some 7,000 persons are to be evacuated with no deaths or injuries reported thus far.
While providing an update on the situation via Zoom just after noon on Friday, Johnson said, although safe, outdoor was hazy and offered low visibility caused by volcanic ash as a result of the eruption.
Johnson said while the explosion has already occurred – something that persons have been preparing for since last December – there is still worry about the coming days as the need arises for basic necessities like food and water.
“It’s really hard to say what will happen right now but with the number of persons going to shelters and so on there will definitely be a demand for food and water… I’m cautious but not fearful,” he added.
Guyana’s Head of State, Dr. Irfaan Ali spoke to Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves by phone on Thursday and pledged Guyana’s unwavering support and solidarity; a pledge that Johnson says has been well received by people on the Island.
During an emergency press briefing on Friday, a tearful Gonsalves thanked his regional neighbours for the support.
“Amazing… on this dangerous road to Jericho, we have the good Samaritans…to put people in their homes…strangers…brings tears to my eyes. I love this Caribbean,” he said.
Gonsalves said over 2,000 people were already at 20 different shelters elsewhere in the country. He added that many had opted for hotels and guest houses, where he believes preference should be given for the elderly.
The volcano crisis on the Island is compounded by the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister also expressed concerns about the days ahead, warning that it is not simply going to be like a hurricane and cautioning those who have chosen not to evacuate and remain in the red zone.
Authorities had indicated that depending on the extent of the explosion and the damage done, it could be for months.