Messages coordinating food and water supply runs and sharing prayers circulated this week in the Virgin Islands as the world watched the aftermath of the La Soufrière volcano erupting on St. Vincent.
“At this time, I ask everyone to remember and pray for our Caribbean brothers and sisters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as they are not only currently being affected by Covid-19, but the eruption of the volcano,” Premier Andrew Fahie said last Thursday. “May God continue to strengthen them during this time.”
The volcano first erupted last week, and a “huge explosion” of ash and hot gas followed on Monday in the largest eruption yet, according to the Associated Press.
Some 16,000 residents have been evacuated from their homes.
Though no immediate reports of injuries or deaths were reported, government officials are still gathering information after the latest explosion.
The BBC reported that more than 3,000 people were seeking shelter at government-run shelters on the island, and cruise ships were preparing to take evacuees to nearby islands if needed. Despite current pandemic restrictions, St. Lucia, Antigua and Grenada have offered to open their borders, with 130 people retreating to St. Lucia as of Monday.
Here in the VI, community members began organising relief efforts shortly after the first eruption, often with the help of territory’s large Vincentian community.
Rotarians are planning a telethon from 7-9:30 p.m. today and a “bucket brigade” to collect funds starting at 4 p.m.
Volunteers hope to quickly purchase and ship essential supplies to the nearest port for transfer to SVG, through a collaboration between Rotary International and the Pan American Health Organisation.
“Helping our neighbours and countries which have suffered various forms of devastation is part of the DNA of Rotary,” Rotary District Assistant District Governor Ryan Geluk said in a statement from the club. “I encourage the BVI community to give as generously as they can, notwithstanding the difficult circumstances in which many find ourselves.”
The territory’s Lions clubs are also leading a relief drive to aid at least 8,000 households. According to a statement from the club, government is organising a barge to sail from Tortola on April 22 and Virgin Gorda on April 23 with supplies set to arrive in SVG on April 26.
“This initiative is a perfect example of BVI Love where the community comes together to help those in need, whether at home in the Virgin Islands or abroad,” Mr. Fahie said in the statement.
Collection bins are being set up at grocery stories, churches, and other organisations throughout the territory.
In addition to water and non-perishable food, a special request was made for toys to comfort affected children.
Department of Disaster Management logistics expert Cecil Jeffrey will coordinate the volunteer-led sorting and packing.
The BVI Red Cross is also accepting money donations.
Private businesses are pitching in as well, with Nutmeg & Co. pledging to provide a portion of sales from its anniversary event on Saturday to victims. Pancake Paradise is also coordinating a drive from 3 p.m. to midnight on Saturday in Wickhams Cay.
Ash in the VI?
Shifting winds could bring volcanic emissions to the northeast Caribbean, DDM said on Tuesday. These winds traveling in the lower atmosphere can carry emissions like dust, ash, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
“The chance of emissions reaching the [VI] is low, but there is a reasonable worst-case scenario of it happening,” DDM stated.
“If it does happen, the impacts would be minor, at most, but the threat of health problems would be elevated for mainly unusually sensitive people, such as asthmatics, people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children.”
A chart from the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology showed only the northmost edge of the emissions cloud possibly reaching the territory.
Meanwhile, the SVG government is urgently requesting that evacuees register their location through the country’s National Emergency Management Organisation to keep an accurate count of people who have left the area, and to ensure they receive supplies.
NEMO is also providing regular updates on seismic activity at nemo.gov.vc/nemo.
The volcano had been dormant since 1979 but showed some activity late last year.