By Kurt Campbell
“No one will die of thirst or hunger here,” Guyana’s Honorary Consul in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Nigel Russell, told the News Room on Friday as he committed to ensuring that not only Guyanese, but all persons on the volcano affected island, benefit from the assistance provided by the Guyanese Government.
But even amid his fervent passion to help, Russell has indicated that some 26 Guyanese have registered with his office, indicating specific interest in returning to Guyana, temporarily.
“And this list is expected to grow,” Russell said. Ten children between the ages of four to eleven are among those interested in returning to Guyana. But while the Guyana Government stands ready to repatriate these Guyanese, the closure of the airport in St. Vincent has stalled these plans.
“We want to ensure that these persons, who have expressed an interest in returning home, get to go home but we are also hoping that the airports open quickly. It is unsafe for aircraft to come here and we are smart and mindful about that,” he said.
The island, which has experienced several eruptions at the La Soufrière volcano in the last seven days, is still dealing with the effects of fallen ash. A shipment of over 300 tonnes of disaster relief items left Guyana for St Vincent on Wednesday last and is expected to arrive there at 8:00hrs on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Another container filled with relief items also departed Guyana on Thursday.
Russel explained that the bulk of those items will go to the government of St Vincent to help them bring relief to persons in shelters across the country, while two crates of requested items will go directly to his office to assist persons on the ground.
Russell and his team at the Consulate, along with volunteers, have been working over the last week to register Guyanese and set up distributions points. He pointed out that with no ventilators on the island for asthmatic persons affected by the haziness of the continuous falling of ash, Guyana is slated to send ventilators there in another shipment expected within the next two weeks.
Russell said although all Guyanese on the island are currently in the green zones, marked safe from the high hazards of the volcano eruption, an 18-year-old had made a special appeal to him to the ventilator.
Others who have taken in their fellow Guyanese are also expected to receive special support in that regard.
“All of the Guyanese are in private homes in the green zone… No Guyanese is in any of the 80 shelters,” he added.
Russell who has been living in St. Vincent for the past 32 years and was appointed the first Consul General in 2017 is, however, disappointed with the number of Guyanese who have registered with his office.
He said with Guyanese having the largest foreign Caribbean presence on the island, arguably between three to four per cent of the population there, just over 200 persons have registered with his office. The Consulate there has been asking Guyanese since the start of 2021 to register but they have not done so for one reason or another.
He said it is important to have a good register of people in times like these.
At the end of February 2021, 91 persons had registered since 2017 with that number increasing to over 200 one week after the volcano erupted.
“Guyanese have not been forthcoming. We have been trying to put this database together and that has not been an easy task…. We have over 200 registered but I am aware of far more,” he added.
The Honorary Consul said not being registered does not mean that no assistance will be rendered. He said anyone that shows up at the office, whether Guyanese or not, will be provided with assistance.
The La Soufriere Volcano remains active; it began to explosively erupt last Friday and for the last seven days, periodic eruptions have covered the island in ash and volcanic flows of molten rock and gas have gushed down the mountainside.