UN stands in deep solidarity with St Vincent after devastating volcanic eruptions

“This crisis comes at the most difficult time, as the world is grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ahead of the hurricane season”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement issued by his spokesperson.

“The Secretary-General commends the local response efforts underway and reiterates the full support of the United Nations”, said Stéphane Dujarric.

Helping the small island developing State

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, located in the southern Caribbean, consists of more than 30 islands and cays, nine of which are inhabited.

At 4,000 feet tall (1,220 metres), La Soufrière dominates the largest island, Saint Vincent.  Though silent since 1979, the volcano began spewing smoke, and rumbling in December, before a full-blown eruption on 9 April.

Mr Dujarric said that the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will announce tomorrow the release of $1 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to assist the response.

“The United Nations…stands ready to provide additional help”, he added.

‘Massive effort’ required

Meanwhile, over the weekend, Didier Trebucq, UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and Eastern Caribbean, along with the representatives from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) took a 10-hour boat ride to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to assess the situation for response and recovery efforts.

With local authorities, they visited several sites hosting families who were forced to evacuate following the eruption 10 days ago.

There are around 15,000 evacuees in need of immediate assistance, the UN official reported via Twitter, adding that there are many sights of desolation and new threats of eruptions.

As Vincentians continue to be evacuated from the orange zone, the UN representatives travelled into the red zone, where Mr Trebucq said that abandoned villages are “covered by heavy ashes…and paved roads have been turned into tracks”.

“Cleanup, ecological and human assets recovery will require a massive effort”, he added.

PAHO estimates:

  • Up to 20,000 people have been evacuated.
  • Some 1,450 families have been displaced.
  • Satellite images show that a new crater with several vents assessed to be about 100m deep.
  • People are re-entering the red zone to check livestock and property.
  • Explosive eruption, gas, ashes and tremors are hampering ongoing evacuations and humanitarian efforts.
  • There has been extensive damage and disruption to infrastructure, facilities and services.
  • Limited/temporary accommodation is available to host evacuees.
  • The airport remains closed until 4:00 pm on Monday.

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