Help offered to St Vincent and the Grenadines hearteningWednesday, April 14, 2021
The devastation of St Vincent and the Grenadines since last Friday by the eruption of La Soufriere volcano is frightening as much as it is heartbreaking.
Each day it becomes clearer that our sister Caribbean country is on a very long road to recovery.
On Sunday, we awoke to a warning by Professor Richard Robertson, the lead scientist monitoring the volcano, that the activity pattern now being observed at La Soufriere is more similar to what happened in the 1902 eruption which took 1,600 lives.
At that time, he noted, many of the deaths resulted from pyroclastic flows which, as he pointed out, destroy just about anything in their path.
“These things are not like the ash that damage things by the weight; these flows really are moving masses of destruction,” Professor Robertson said. “They destroy everything in their path. If you have the strongest house in the world, they will just bulldoze it off the ground.
“It has so much force, so much energy, and so much heat that when it gets to the coastline… it is so hot that it boils the top of the sea… and it then creates a cushion of bullets that it then shoots across the sea even faster,” Professor Robertson said.
He told us that when the eruptions finally cease the devastation will be significant, not only because of the ash, but because of the pyroclastic flows that could go down the mountainside.
The volcanologist, though, said that there is the likelihood that the lava flow may not get so big as to destroy the entire country. We desperately hope that he is correct.
As it now stands, the possibility of buildings collapsing under the weight of volcanic ash is high, as is the threat of significant damage to infrastructure, property, and the natural environment.
But even more worrying is the effect the volcanic eruption is having on human life, as not only have people been already displaced, many will emerge from this disaster with respiratory and other illnesses that will most likely put a strain on the public health system at a time when the country, like the entire world, is dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Government's ability to respond to a disaster of this scale will be severely tested. As such, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves will need as much help as he can get.
We are therefore heartened by the offers of assistance already extended by countries in the Caricom bloc, which themselves are going through tough times dealing with the pandemic.
We also note that the World Bank has pledged US$20 million through its Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option to support the Government's response, and the United Kingdom has said it is providing £200,000 in emergency assistance.
Equally, Digicel Group has said it is donating US$500,000 worth of much-needed items to support relief efforts, while United Way of Jamaica has launched a disaster relief fund and has already donated $250,000 to get that effort moving.
The selflessness displayed by the countries and organisations that have rallied to St Vincent and the Grenadines' assistance thus far is admirable and encouraging.
We expect that other organisations and countries will provide help, because when we lighten the burdens of people in dire need we make the world a better place.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login