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La Soufrière Eruption: St. Vincent Without Electricity And Clean Water, Covid-19 Vaccine Required Before Evacuation

The eruption of La Soufrière volcano last week in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, has left the entire population of the main island without clean water and electricity, the UN Spokesperson said on Monday. 

Citing reports from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Stéphane Dujarric added that about 20,000 evacuees on the Caribbean island are currently in need of shelter.

“The eruption has affected most livelihoods in the northern part of the island, including banana farming, with ash and lava flows hampering the movement of people and goods”, he told journalists at the daily news briefing. 

La Soufrière erupted last Friday, blanketing Saint Vincent in a layer of ash and forcing some 16,000 residents to evacuate their homes to cruise ships and safer parts of the island.

Many residents threatened by the volcano have been evacuated using cruise ships which have been empty of passengers since last year’s no-sail order.

However, the Caribbean island has been told this route of escape is only open to evacuees who have had a Covid 19 vaccine.

People on the Island of St Vincent were told to evacuate following increased volcanic activity and the ultimate eruption of La Soufriere on Friday, 9 April.

Ships from cruise lines Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises were dispatched to the island last week, in an effort to provide temporary refuge and transport to neighbouring islands.

Limited humanitarian access

Emphasizing that access to the island is limited, Mr. Dujarric said that along with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the UN has mobilized pre-positioned water and sanitation hygiene supplies, currently stored in nearby Barbados. 

Over the weekend, the Secretary-General spoke to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and the Government officially asked for UN assistance. 

The aid includes relief items, food and cash distribution and technical advice while neighbouring countries are contributing emergency supplies and assets to support evacuation, according to the UN spokesperson.

Scientists have predicted more volcanic eruptions and the UN has mobilized experts through the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), at the request of the Prime Minister, to develop and implement a debris management plan, including to clean up ash and promote environmental health and safety.

La Soufrière’s most devastating eruption was in 1902 when about 1,600 people – most of them indigenous Caribs – were killed.

It last erupted in April 1979. The local population was evacuated and no casualties were recorded.


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