On April 13th, an ash plume rises over La Soufriere on St. Vincent. The volcano is expected to continue erupting and has caused a humanitarian crisis. Orvil Samuel / AP Hide caption
Orvil Samuel / AP
Orvil Samuel / AP
The volcano Soufriere began to explode on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent last Friday. For nearly a week, periodic eruptions have covered the island in ash, and volcanic streams of molten rock and gas pour down the mountainside. Residents have been displaced and no longer have clean water or electricity, creating a humanitarian emergency.
The La Soufrière eruption forced around 30 villages in the northern part of the island to evacuate. A report According to the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, 16,000 to 20,000 people are affected. More than 4,000 people occupy 89 public accommodations. Two thousand others confirmed that they were staying with friends or family.
Despite mandatory evacuation orders from Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves early last week, 127 people were rescued from Owia, a town in the northeast of the island and well within the volcano’s danger zone.
The United States has been working to get the Americans off the island. In collaboration with Royal Caribbean Cruises, the The US embassy will transport American citizens from St. Vincent to Dutch Sint Maarten Friday free.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported Monday that the volcanic eruption left the entire population of St. Vincent, 110,000 people, without clean drinking water or electricity. Access to St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been restricted since the outbreak began. Airports are closing and sea travel is limited, which hinders support efforts.
The biggest problem is clean water, the UN coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq, said in one Briefing Wednesday. The water system has been switched off so that drinking water comes from outside the country. “We are facing a situation of great uncertainty and a humanitarian crisis that is escalating and possibly lasting for weeks and months,” he said.
The UN said so prepositioned Water and hygiene items in nearby Barbados, including 60,000 masks and medical gowns. In addition, PAHO will purchase 50 water tanks and pumps, chlorine test kits and other necessities for health clinics.
The volcano’s dome was completely destroyed during the periodic eruptions. More than 460 million cubic tons rock and earth were hurled into the atmosphere. Winds have carried the ashes to the neighboring islands of Barbados, Grenada and St. Lucia.
Experts predict that La Soufrière will continue to erupt. The University of West Indies seismic research center said explosions and ashfall are expected to continue for the next few days. The volcano shows a pattern of episodic explosions with long pauses. The UWI expects more explosions of similar or larger magnitude.
Pyroclastic currents continue to threaten the areas immediately around the volcano. These streams of overheated gas, rocks, and debris shoot down the face of the mountain, destroying everything on their way. They also move at incredible speeds, averaging 60 miles per hour, but capable of reaching speeds in excess of 400 miles per hour. These currents appear to have moved along the valleys on the east side of the island towards the Rabacca River. However, these pyroclastic flows can take place anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.
Trebucq said the St. Vincent crisis will not be short-lived. Even if the volcano stops erupting, which could take weeks, it expects the challenges to last longer than six months. “In reality, 100% of the population is indirectly affected by the situation,” said Trebucq. The UN will ask for it Financing attractiveness to support St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the coming months.