La Soufrière is an active stratovolcano located in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is the highest peak on the island and has five recorded eruptions since 1718. The latest activity commenced in December 2020, and the volcano entered a series of explosive events on April 09, 2021. The first eruption resulted in an ash plume that reached nearly 8,000 m, that drifted in an easterly direction towards the Atlantic Ocean. Venting and explosions continue periodically with the last eruption being recording this morning (April 16) at ~ 6:15 a.m. The eruptions have brought complete devastation to the island, with consistent hybrid earthquakes, an avalanche of ash, gas and debris covering the island, and pyroclastic flows that have gushed down the mountainside and travelled along valleys located on the eastern side of the island, reaching as far as the Rabacca River. The volcano has ejected more than an estimated 460 million cubic tons of rock and earth and the pyroclastic flows has the capacity to reach speeds up to 400 miles per hour.
The residents located near the volcano, in approximately 30 villages on the northern side of the island, were mandated to evacuate. The majority are being hosted presently in 89 shelters in the southern side of the island. It is estimated between 16,000 to 20,000 residents have been displaced. An estimated 7,411 are formally registered and housed in the shelters, ~2,000 are staying with friends and relatives, and others have sought shelter in neighboring Caribbean islands. Thankfully, no deaths have been recorded. Due to the eruption of La Soufrière, the entire population of St. Vincent (~110,000) currently have little to no access to electricity and fresh, clean water. The airports are closed and maritime travel is extremely limited, making humanitarian relief efforts challenging.
The population is currently facing a number of dire challenges including pollution of the land, watercourses and air due to the emitted ash and Sulphur Dioxide. This pollution has caused chronic water shortages, devastation to their agriculture sector, electricity outages, and displacement. It is expected that the devastating effects will be felt for months, or even years and aid is desperately needed. While the communities are currently being supplied with truck borne water, the CEO at the Central Water and Sewage Authority, Mr. Garth Saunders, has indicated that the supply is finite and will be depleted.
To help alleviate the challenges faced by our Caribbean neighbors, CaribDA’s Humanitarian Committee has been actively seeking ways in which we can support the people of St. Vincent at this time. We hope to provide relief that can aid the population in the short and long terms. Currently we are reviewing the possibility of installing small SWRO units at two or three coastal communities in the southern part of the island. CaribDA is kindly requesting your help to make this possible. In the coming days, we will reach out once more to share our ideas with the exact details of how you may be able to assist. Thank you for your continued support.