KINGSTOWN, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (Reuters) – The tiny island in the eastern Caribbean of Saint Vincent was rocked by a fifth-day eruption of La Soufriere volcano on Tuesday as leaders warned about water shortages and the potential needs of hundreds of millions of people. dollars to rebuild.
The explosion occurred around 6 a.m., causing smoke and other billowing ash and pyroclastic currents of ash and rock to slide down the flanks of the volcano. Officials have warned it could continue to be active for months.
Ash covered much of the island, 8 inches (20 cm) thick in parts. It has destroyed crops, contaminated water, killed animals and destroyed infrastructure, as well as rendered some roads impassable, complicating search and rescue efforts.
So far there have been no reports of casualties or injuries. Damage from the 1979 eruption was $ 100 million. But residents are struggling to overcome supply shortages.
“We are still looking for drinking water and food,” said Jenetta Young Mason, 43, who fled her home in a dangerous area to live with relatives.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said some supplies from neighboring countries had started pouring into the island nation of more than 100,000 people during a press conference broadcast on local stations. But more help is needed.
The Central Water and Sewage Authority has been unable to extract water from water sources since the volcano erupted, said government spokesman Sehon Marshall, resulting in more than 50% depletion of water storage.
Several Caribbean islands have shipped cots, food, masks and breathing tanks, and the World Bank says it intends to funnel $ 20 million to the government through an interest-free disaster financing program.
Inactive for decades, the volcano first erupted on Friday, prompting between 16,000 and 20,000 people to flee from surrounding areas, with many living in shelters near the capital Kingstown.
Government efforts to protect people are complicated by protocols to limit the spread of COVID, including restrictions on the number of people and requirements for testing and vaccination.
One of them is the reluctance of residents to take vaccines. Kitron Sam, 34, who fled after the eruption, said officials visited his shelter near Kingstown and offered the vaccine, but no one chose to take it.
Reporting by Robertson S. Henry in Kingstown and Kate Chappell in Kingston; Edited by Sarah Marsh and Lisa Shumaker