Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and neighboring countries: Soufrière Volcanic – Update of operation no. 1 (MDRVC005) – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


GLIDE n ° VO-2021-000034-VCT


Description of the disaster

On December 29, 2020, the alert level of the La Soufrière volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was high due to the increase in volcanic activity. On April 8, 2021, the alert level was raised to Rouge, as government authorities issued immediate evacuation orders for volcanoes in neighboring communities. On April 9, 2021, La Soufrière erupted for the first time after 40 years, sending an ash plume 10 km into the sky. The resulting ash fall was very heavy in the surrounding areas, reaching neighboring islands and interrupting air traffic to the area. Subsequent eruptions, lava flows, earthquakes, ash plumes and seismic activity continued throughout April. In early May, the explosions subsided, but seismic activity and the risk of lahars remain.

The ash plumes and sulfur dioxide have reached far enough to affect Barbados, Grenada and Saint Lucia. The ash fall also had an impact on Saint Lucia, particularly affecting the inhabitants of the south of the island. Residents of Vieux-Fort, Saint Lucia, located near the southernmost point of Saint Lucia have been seen on the streets, some coughing and rubbing their eyes. At the same time, several fishermen in the south of the island had complained about how the ash fall had made it very difficult for them to fish1. In Grenada, the government has agreed to receive a maximum of 1,600 evacuees2. The Meteorological Services Agency has issued a major volcanic mist and dust advisory for the island of Barbados. Barbados has also experienced reduced visibility and ash deposits, impacting the health and livelihoods of communities.

An estimated 23,4004 people have been displaced to the southern end of Saint Vincent and the Grenadine and some neighboring countries. They were received in 85 formal collective shelters managed by the government (4,417 and increasingly smaller), informal collective shelters like hotels, some available rented residences, and many are private houses (18927) hosted by the family. and friends. The numbers continue to fluctuate as some areas reopen when evacuees return and others move between formal shelters and private homes.

Regional travel was limited, but limited flights have now restarted, albeit severely curtailed by ongoing travel restrictions in the region linked to COVID. Argyle International Airport reopened on Saturday April 24 to international travel. However, operations are heavily dependent on the explosive activity of the volcano, which is still unpredictable, and COVID closures from neighboring countries.

On April 30, the island of Saint-Vincent was again hit by a tropical storm with heavy rains causing flooding on the pavements, drainage problems, debris on the roads, small landslides which caused property damage near Kingstown. Saturated soils caused river levels to rise and the flow of lahars (mudslides) near the volcano to increase. It is possible that at the start of the hurricane season in the coming months there will be an increase in rains and possibly more severe mass erosion events and flooding.

On May 6, 2021, the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines along with the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) lowered the volcanic alert level from red to orange, noting that no significant activity was occurring. ‘had been observed during the eruptions of April 22. This allowed people from the yellow and orange zones to return to their homes, with the exception of a few specific communities. Returning people are reminded that an escalation in inactivity can still occur with little to no warning, and caution should be exercised when crossing river valleys on the volcano due to the increased risk. lahars during periods of rain. As of May 13, government shelters reported that around 30 evacuees had returned since the announcement. Many traveled to visit their homes, then returned to collective centers, finding their homes uninhabitable.

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