By Theresa Goodwin
Local disaster officials have confirmed that the necessary arrangements are in place for Antigua and Barbuda to welcome at least 250 nationals of St Vincent and the Grenadines, thousands of whom were forced to evacuate their homes when the La Soufriere volcano first erupted on Friday.
Most parts of the island are blanketed in a layer of ash and emergency officials have described the landscape as a “battle zone” and that more damage and destruction was likely.
Director of the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) Philmore Mullin said the evacuees, if they arrive, will be housed at the Jolly Beach Resort and Spa which currently serves as the government’s quarantine center.
He said an inspection was conducted on Saturday and he is pleased with the efforts thus far.
“The Ministry of Health will be responsible for all of the Covid-19 protocols. Additionally, they will conduct the regular screenings on arrival and will be seeking to determine whether or not any of the evacuees are on medication and what type of medication so that they can be integrated into the health system,” Mullin said.
“The Ministry of Education have been asked to look at the existing situation so that they can accept school children, so while they are here, they will be able to go to school after the initial quarantine period”.
Mullin said preparations have also been made with the Antigua Port Authority regarding the disembarkation of evacuees.
The NODS director also explained that this is a humanitarian situation and as such, it will be left up to the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines to determine who will be sent.
“Whoever they send we will receive. However, there are certain things that will be done on arrival and where it is necessary, to conduct additional screening, that will be done by the appropriate authority,” Mullin said.
Meanwhile several countries in the region have responded to Vincentian population by providing basic needs.
A St Vincent Volcano Disaster Relief GoFundMe has also been launched to help raise immediate funds to satisfy the urgent needs of displaced individuals to Barbados, as well as those who have now been forced into shelters in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The GoFundMe was launched by Invest Caribbean, the NY and South Florida-based global private sector investment agency of the Caribbean, and its partner, The Ritzury Group.
The goal is to help financially support the long-term needs of many Vincentian families, students and children who will be displaced for months to come.
The immediate financial prerequisite is to buy and provide key items such as food and water, non-perishables including canned goods and juice, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, soap, deodorant, shampoos, sleeping mats, blankets, feminine hygiene products, masks, baby diapers, hand sanitisers, manual can openers, buckets, masks, mosquito repellent, first-aid kits, and antibiotic ointments, the agency said.