The volcano on the Caribbean island of Saint-Vincent, which erupted Friday after decades of inactivity, will continue to rumble and spit out ash in the near future. That says the seismological center of the University of the West Indies. “It could only take a year,” explains geologist Richard Robertson. “We hope were wrong, but we have to take it into account.”
La Soufrière erupted Friday morning, for the first time since 1979, and the series of eruptions that followed did not, as far as we know, have been killed or injured. Robertson compares this eruption to the 1902 eruption, when 1600 people died. Then the volcano remained active for a long time, although the force of the eruptions changed.
Between 16,000 and 20,000 people left the red zones last weekend. Several dozen people have not responded to the call for evacuation. The Saint-Vincent police have announced that anyone who is still in a risk zone will be arrested.
On satellite images, the damage on Saint-Vincent is clearly visible (drag the red ball back and forth):
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of Saint-Vincent has asked for help from the United Nations. The UN has now sent a team of experts to make a plan to clean up the thick layer of ash on the island. The organisation has also sent food, water tanks and personnel, among other things.
The island has a huge shortage of drinking water. The region has been struggling with drought for years, and now people use water to clean, it threatens to run out. In places where water is still available, there are long lines. “We thank God for being alive, but we need more help,” says a retired policeman standing in line.
Residents of the Dutch municipality of Sint-Eustatius have sent seven pallets of drinking water to Saint-Vincent. The island has also raised funds to help affected neighbouring ilanders. “Getting money is still relatively easy, but getting stuff there is a bigger challenge,” says one of the coordinators of the action against local media. The ash and lava flows hinder the movement of people and goods on the island.
Several (egg) countries in the region have offered assistance. A charity organization in the Canadian city of Toronto has now sent shipping containers with food packages. The Bolivian Navy has also arrived on the island with vehicles with aids.
Guyana hopes to be able to send relief supplies as soon as possible. More than 4,000 Guyanese live in Saint-Vincent. Prime Minister Timothy Harris of St. Kitts and Nevis have pledged 1 million euros for help in the aftermath.
Saint-Vincent received almost EUR 17 million from the World Bank. Probably, all this help will not be enough. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said yesterday at a press conference that it is estimated that hundreds of millions of euros are needed for reconstruction.