Relief supplies and disaster management for St Vincent and the Grenadines were the key topics at a specially convened Caricom emergency meeting on Thursday. Aid to Barbados was also discussed, as the island is experiencing ashfall from the volcano as well.
The Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) met to discuss the situation in islands caused by the current volcanic eruptions of the La Soufriere volcano.
Chairman of Caricom and T&T Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley chaired the event despite his COVID-19 diagnosis.
Rowley was diagnosed with the virus on April 6 and is continuing to work while remaining isolated in Tobago.
According to a Caricom update, the leaders committed to continue providing extensive support to St Vincent and the Grenadines and “pledged solidarity with that Member State as it strives to cope with the disaster.”
The La Soufriere volcano began erupting last Friday and in the ensuing days has been spewing ash and emitting pyroclastic flows.
The Heads of Government were informed that the situation would be prolonged given the level of uncertainty in respect of the behaviour of the volcano.
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves reported to the other island leaders that more than 10,000 people had been evacuated from the immediate disaster area covering approximately one-third of the island.
According to the update, the evacuated people are being housed in shelters and at homes of family and friends. Accommodation for evacuees is also being arranged by neighbouring states.
The Heads of Government were also told that the ash and the pyroclastic flows have decimated crops and vegetation and compromised water sources. Food and water were identified as among the primary needs.
Member states indicated the level of support that had already been delivered and committed to providing further financial, technical and material support, in particular food and water. Security assistance is also being provided.
Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley highlighted the effects of the unprecedented heavy ashfall across that island, which has resulted in major disruptions to the infrastructure, including the closure of the Grantley Adams International Airport with an adverse effect on the tourism sector and the wider economy.
Heads of Government pledged their support and solidarity with Barbados in treating with the challenge.
Once again, Gonsalves thanked his fellow Heads of Government for their support and assistance. He also praised the work of the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (SRC), which has been monitoring the volcano and expressed his deep appreciation for the efforts of CDEMA, Regional Security System (RSS), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) in assisting the country.
Both the local Minister of National Security Stuart Young and Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne attended the virtual meeting.
While Browne did not respond to requests for an update on the meeting, he posted a message to social media hours after the meeting ended.
In that message, Browne said that the meeting focused on the situation and response to the La Soufrière volcano and that Gonzalves addressed his regional colleagues and stated that his nation is “overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and assistance from the Caricom family.”
“Much more support is on the way,” Browne said.