–President Ali underscores Guyana’s commitment to helping island-nation
–Guyanese on the island safe with each other, Diaspora Unit Head says
WHILE the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines continues to contend with volcanic eruptions at the La Soufrière volcano, Guyana On Thursday sent a container filled with much-needed water supplies, and President Dr. Irfaan Ali has said that this nation will continue to support the island.
A twenty-foot container filled with cases of water left on a Tropical Shipping vessel, which was en route to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Thursday.
The water supplies were donated by Banks DIH Ltd, and supplement the emergency supplies sent by Guyana to St. Vincent on Tuesday aboard the ‘Miss Meena’ vessel.
According to a press release from the Office of the President, President Ali assured the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves that Guyana is fully committed to assisting the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, not only in the immediate period, but also in the medium and long-term.
President Ali gave this assurance while speaking at the 14th Special Emergency Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government on Thursday.
The release noted that President Ali informed the meeting that a vessel had already departed Guyana with 350 tonnes of varied needs, including water, water storage containers, sugar, rice, peas, chowmein, sanitisers, detergents, disinfectant, personal care items and supplies for infants. That vessel, the ‘Miss Meena’, is due to arrive in St Vincent and the Grenadines tomorrow.
“Another shipment of items is being prepared for departure on Monday, April 19; that would include water, sugar, rice, assorted food items and personal care and hygiene items,” the release also stated. Cognisant that water supplies are much-needed in St. Vincent and also in Barbados, which has been affected by volcanic ash, President Ali also committed to sending a further 50 water tanks to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and another 50 to Barbados in response to an appeal from that nation’s Prime Minister, Ms. Mia Mottley.
“President Ali said that the government has received immense support from the private sector, which had mobilised financial resources. It was the government’s intention to supplement this,” the release noted further.
Joining President Ali at this meeting was Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips; Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Hugh Todd; Permanent Secretary in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ambassador Elisabeth Harper; Acting Cabinet Secretary, Ms. Marcia Nadir-Sharma; and Director of the Department of the Americas in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador George Talbot. The volcano in St. Vincent erupted at 08:41 hours last Friday, shortly after the government 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, on Thursday night. Since then, there have been perpetual eruptions, which are projected to last for a few more weeks. Prime Minister Gonsalves, during an address to his countrymen the day after the initial eruption, noted that he has been engaging the governments in the wider Caribbean region, and there has been an outpouring of support for the country. “The President of Guyana has been in touch with me quite often,” the Vincentian Prime Minister said, adding: “They’re loading a ship to send a lot of supplies.” He’d also highlighted that President Ali had informed him of the private sector collaboration, including the special account set up to send relief to the island. The Office of the President noted that the two leaders would engage again on Saturday night.
GUYANESE WITH EACH OTHER
Meanwhile, Head of the Diaspora Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ms. Rosalinda Rasul, has told the Guyana Chronicle that the Honorary Consul in St. Vincent has assured the local authorities that all Guyanese nationals living on the island have been evacuated from the danger zones. “No one in the shelters are coming forward as Guyanese, and this indicates that they are in private homes,” Rasul said. Even so, she noted that more Guyanese nationals are reaching out to the Honorary Consul to indicate that they are on the island, and providing whatever needs they might have at this time. During a recent interview with the Guyana Chronicle, the Honorary Consul to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Mr. Nigel Russell highlighted that those Guyanese who were living in the “green” or “safe” zone were encouraged to accommodate their fellow countrymen who were living in the “red” or “danger” zone and might have to evacuate. And such was the case following the eruption on Friday.
The Honorary Consul noted that his priority was ensuring that the Guyanese were safely evacuated and relocated from the danger zones. Having done that, he said that the consulate is now focused 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 consulate has been making a list to send to the local authorities, so that relief can be provided.
On Thursday, Rasul confirmed that Guyanese on the island have formed a bond with each other, and she assured the public that the government was making every effort to help provide supplies that they might need. Importantly, she identified water and specialised face-masks to help asthmatic persons breathe as two specific supplies that the local authorities would look to supply.