— says Honorary Consul, highlights only two Guyanese in shelters following volcanic eruptions
THERE are about 4,500 Guyanese living on the island of St. Vincent, which has been facing volcanic eruptions since Friday, and the Honorary Consul, Nigel Russell, highlighted that there has been an outpouring of support among the Guyanese population to get through the crisis.
On Tuesday, during an interview conducted via WhatsApp, Russell told the Guyana Chronicle that the team at the Honorary Consulate in St. Vincent has been engaging Guyanese on the island since December last, as the seismic activities on the island intensified, indicating volcanic activity.
Russell said that the Guyanese who were living in the “green” or “safe” zone were encouraged to accommodate the Guyanese who were living in the “red” or “danger” zone, who might have to evacuate. And such was the case, following the eruption on Friday.
“We’ve only discovered two Guyanese in shelters. A majority of persons are in private homes,” Russell highlighted. Shelters have been set up by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, across the safer places on the island.
The Honorary Consul noted that ensuring that the Guyanese were safely evacuated and relocated from the danger zones was priority. Having done that, he said that the Consul is now focussed on taking care of the needs of the people.
“On the ground here, there will always be needs. The biggest need is water and what I have asked Guyana, initially, is to get us some water and to get us some goggles to deal with the (volcanic) ash and face masks,” Russell related.
And though individuals have opened up their homes to accommodate others, he acknowledged that eventually, personal supplies will run low and people will require some assistance. As such, the Consul has been making a list to send to the local authorities so that relief can be provided.
On Monday evening, the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a notice, advising all Guyanese affected by ongoing volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to make urgent contact with Nigel Russell, Honorary Consul of Guyana to St. Vincent and the Grenadines or Head of the Diaspora Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Rosalinda Rasul.
Russell can be contacted via 784-453-1222 (office) and 784-526-5159 (mobile/WhatsApp), or via his email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Meanwhile, the Diaspora Unit, Protocol and Consular Affairs Department can be contacted on: 592-226-1606; 592-226-1608, ext: 249, 342, 326, 279 or via WhatsApp on 592-619-0734.
Once the affected Guyanese on the island make contact with the body in St. Vincent, Rasul said that a list will be made of all the supplies needed, and the local authorities will organise those supplies and send to the group in a subsequent shipment.
Since then, Russell noted that about 70 additional Guyanese have come forward and registered with the Guyanese authorities in St. Vincent. Upon garnering an understanding of what the needs of the people are, the information will be communicated to the authorities in Guyana.
And in fact, the Honorary Consul noted that he has been in frequent communication with Rasul. He has been communicating the needs of the Guyanese to her and in turm, she has been making the necessary arrangements in Guyana.
Russell also highlighted that President Dr. Irfaan Ali and Vice-President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo have both made contact with him and assured him that the needs of the Guyanese on the island will be taken care of. The local authorities, he related, have also committed to providing some assistance to all affected persons on the island.
On Saturday, President Dr. Irfaan Ali, Prime Minister Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips, and Vice-President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo held an urgent meeting at State House with members of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and the Private Sector to coordinate an emergency response to help the sister CARICOM nation, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Supplies for the people of St. Vincent left Guyana on Tuesday aboard the Miss Meena ship, after a massive show of support from the local authorities, the private sector and members of the public.
The La Soufriere volcano erupted at 08:41hrs last Friday, after the government on Thursday night issued an evacuation notice for persons living in the Red Zone, which is in the northernmost part of the island where the volcano is located. This evacuation order was issued following an increase in seismic activity, indicating that the volcano would erupt soon. News 784 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines reported that Geologist and Professor Richard Robertson said that more explosions are expected soon, and that the first one was not the biggest.
“If there is a much bigger explosion, the ash can spread further [sic] to the south. This could continue for days or weeks and monitoring will continue,” News 784 quoted Robertson as saying. There have been several eruptions since. Videos posted on social media by residents of St. Vincent showed ash spreading to communities, covering buildings and surfaces. On Saturday, Barbados Today reported that the ash had spread to Barbados. Amid the unfolding natural disaster in St. Vincent, a number of other countries within CARICOM have also affirmed their assistance to the Vincentian Prime Minister and his people.