We chose the name for our editorial this week to help guard people from neighbouring countries against complacency as the effects of La Soufriere volcano eruption was being felt way beyond the shores of Saint Vincent. Barbados sent workers home as that country battled with the ash fall, which took almost a day of cleaning to get rid of it. While Grenada and Carriacou had our share, we must thank God that the ashfall was mild. However medical professionals still had warnings for people with respiratory diseases and conditions. The eruption of the volcano, which continues in different forms, touched economies since it resulted in the closure of airports as the ash poses a danger to the engines of aircrafts. This negatively affected movements as airlines were forced to cancel flights.
In Saint Vincent which was thrown into darkness from no electricity supply, a few houses collapsed under the weight of the ash spewed from the volcano; then there was the pyroclastic density currents which moved down the mountain, destroying everything in its path. To add to their woes the people in Saint Vincent had to also deal with lightning and thunder. A marine advisory was also thrown in for persons venturing out at sea since it was believed that a combination of volcanic ash and Saharan dust can reduce visibility. But that was the only way to rescue non-nationals who were in Saint Vincent; so some boats took the chance. There might have even been people who would have liked to pray the time away but churches in both SVG and Barbados were ordered by their respective Bishops to be closed as it is not safe for persons to go outside of their homes, since the behavior of the volcano is unpredictable.
The eruptions in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have displaced some citizens, who were forced to leave the Red Zone and take up residence in the 76 shelters. There is the need for a lot of help from neighbouring countries to keep our neighbours alive. On top of the woeful situation, came the urgent need for water as the eruptions compromised the island’s main water source. The water source, surface water as here in Grenada, became contaminated by the ash and gases, which led to the closure of reservoirs, resulting in the depletion of the essential commodity. While Grenadians are advised by NAWASA earlier in the week that there are no immediate plans for a complete system shutdown, that situation could change depending on the intensity and duration of the eruptions, the quantity of material ejected, as well as the prevailing wind direction. So, neighbour house on fire, wet yours.
Some experts have revealed that the eruptions created an abnormal situation; since normally the wind blows in the opposite direction in that area and was not expected to dump so much ash on Barbados. It is even believed that climate change, which the world is experiencing, may have a part to play in the strange behavior of the volcano.
It is also believed that the pyroclastic density currents going down multiple valleys can end up in the sea. This may lead to further contamination and interference with the temperature because it’s hot.
The area in Saint Vincent where La Soufriere erupted is referred to as rural where peoples’ livelihood depended on farming so some of them had to be forced to leave as their preference, according to Prime Minister Gonsalves, was to stay with their farm animals. But the pyroclastic flows have compounded the problem since there are different sizes of rocks in it, there’s gas in it and it is moving fast, virtually there are very few structures in the world that could stand up to the force of that material going down the mountainside scientists have reported. It is not a pretty sight as we view satellite images of the destruction.
The Prime Minister is still seen wearing his white shirt jack but it may not be for much longer since another problem that will come with the scarcity of good water is laundry. It is certainly a woeful time for hospitals, people with babies and young children and the elderly. All this is happening as Saint Vincent as other parts of the world is grappling with the COVID-19 which calls for social distancing. Just how possible can that be now? Can individuals stay six feet apart in hurriedly constructed make shift shelters?
This should be a good time for everyone to prepare emotionally and mentally for eventualities. Grenada is among the volcanic islands of the Caribbean and we should never say never. Our hurricane season is one month away. Let’s draw from the situation in Saint Vincent as we prepare for it. We can start by securing the things that cannot be replaced for starters. Then follow the guidelined as given by NaDMA. But It is clear that at some point in time some material things will have to be left behind and after surviving dreadful situations, people can always build back better.