It is with a heavy heart, coupled with a firm resolve, that we note the dastardly eruption of La Soufriere volcano in neighbouring St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The eruption began at 8:41 this past Friday, and so far, there has only been one reported fatality. May the soul of the departed rest in peace, and of course, may the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) people find some measure of comfort in their hour of grief.
Theirs will be a rough road and an uncertain future. Volcanoes can be extremely whimsical and capricious, and with this eruption happening right smack in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, it is a rather unkind cut. Our brothers and sisters in SVG will need all the help that they can get, and it is heartening to see the magnanimous way in which the governments and people of the region have stepped up in a big way to assistt.
Our government has graciously offered to house some 250 of the SVG folks at the Jolly Beach hotel, and we are also providing blankets, water and other emergency supplies. In St Kitts Nevis, the Timothy Harris administration is providing EC$1 million to assist with the evacuation of the people, and another US$20 million plus, to emergency agencies to help defray some of the costs that they will incur. The other countries in the region have also come forward with all forms of assistance. Seems, the SVG folks are not alone in this existential crisis. As well it ought to be. After all, we are our brothers’ keepers.
PM Gonsalves spoke in an interview on social media to the admirable way in which the region has been coming together to assist them: “Of the 13 million cubic metres of material that formed the dome, approximately, the volume, it has blown away, and new material is now coming up from in the volcano, and fortunately, a lot of the material has gone into the sea, but a lot is here; and I was just talking to Mia Mottley, the PM of Barbados, and a lot has reached Barbados. And we don’t know how long this spewing is going to take place, the seismologists don’t know, in fact, what they’re doing, they are collecting samples, and through their testing, they will be able to give us an indication as to what they think; of course, it is not a precise science when you’re doing these prognoses. This cleaning up is going to be massive, as you can see already; I mean as you can see, the weight of this, and the nature of this – it is smashing up houses already; crashing the roofs, crashing the windows and doors; it is getting inside the houses – it is a very serious problem, the cleaning up of this alone, it is going to be massive; this . . ., and we don’t know what is the size of the magma chamber . . . It’s early days, in terms of providing relief, but a number of Caribbean countries have already been mobilised, provided relief, the Barbados Coast Guard came, Trinidad is sending stuff, . . . the outpouring in the region has been splendid we have been in touch with the World Bank, we’ve been in touch with the UN system, (and so on and so forth) CARPHA has been working well, CDEMA has been working well; I just spoke to Liz who is the head of CDEMA, the CARICOM secretariat the OECS secretariat, the various governments . . . We are doing the coordination . . .” Seems, Dr. Gonsalves is rising to the occasion, and filling the role occasioned by this catastrophe, as have many other regional leaders. The good doctor will be in our thoughts and prayers.
Sadly, rather than rising in stature, statesmanlike, some of our leaders have further diminished themselves with idle chatter on social media. We will not defile these august pages by repeating the utter foolishness about SVG young women. After all, It is beneath contempt, and good citizens all across this blessed island, including the political leader of the United Progressive Party, Harold Lovell, have been justifiably outraged. Seems, there are some in high places who will never fail to underwhelm us in their race to the bottom. Sigh!
The Women’s Forum of the United Progressive Party (UPP-WF) also voiced strong condemnation of what it called, “Disgusting remarks about the women of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.” Said the WF, “At any time at all, these remarks would be considered vulgar, demeaning, sexist, and inappropriate. But at a time like this, when the people of the nation are vulnerable, anxious, in peril, and are likely to be displaced, the PM’s comments are inexcusable. Mr. Browne’s words were neither funny nor lighthearted, and we are disgusted that the head of government would behave in this manner. The WF views the statements as predatory and an encouragement to the men of our nation to see women as ‘prey’ and as sex objects.” Of course, we shake our heads. It is so deeply disappointing.
Meanwhile, we understand that SVG is without electricity and water, and the volcanic ash is now covering the entire island. Many roofs and spouts are filled with the ash, and it is said that when mixed with water, this ash could solidify, and create another nightmare. St. Lucia and Barbados are also reporting significant accumulations of ash. We are praying for them.
We certainly trust that the people of SVG will see their lives return to some semblance of normalcy, sooner rather than later, and that in the event that some of them end up here, that they will not be cursed at, or told to go home, or maligned, and bad-mouthed, as were some of our Barbudan brothers and sisters by operatives of some of those in high places who quickly tired of playing host to them.
Again, may God bless the people of SVG! And may God guide and direct those of us who will be reaching our hearts and hands across the ocean to assist them. The next few days will be critical.
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