Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met in Special Emergency session (14th Special Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government) on Thursday 15 April to discuss the situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines caused by the on-going volcanic eruptions of La Soufriere.
They committed to continue providing extensive support to St Vincent and the Grenadines and pledged solidarity with that Member State as it strove to cope with the disaster. The volcano erupted on Friday 9 April and has been spewing ash and emitting pyroclastic flows.
Dr the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines briefed his colleague Leaders on the situation at the meeting which was held virtually. It was presided over by the Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. The meeting also received information from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) which is co-ordinating the regional response to the event.
Heads of Government were informed that the situation would be prolonged given the level of uncertainty in respect of the behaviour of the volcano.
Prime Minister Gonsalves reported that more than 10,000 people had been evacuated from the immediate disaster area covering approximately one third of the island. They are being housed in shelters and at homes of family and friends. Accommodation for evacuees is also being arranged by neighbouring States.
The ash and the pyroclastic flows have decimated crops and vegetation and compromised water sources. Food and water were identified as among the primary needs.
Member States indicated the level of support that had already been delivered and committed to providing further financial, technical and material support, in particular food and water. Security assistance is also being provided.
The Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados alerted the meeting to the effects of the unprecedented heavy ashfall across that island which has resulted in major disruptions to the infrastructure including the closure of the Grantley Adams International Airport with an adverse effect on the tourism sector and the wider economy. Heads of Government pledged their support and solidarity with Barbados in treating with this significant challenge.
Prime Minister Gonsalves thanked his colleague Heads of Government and the Regional Institutions for their overwhelming support. He praised the work of the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (SRC) which has been monitoring the volcano and expressed his deep appreciation for the efforts of CDEMA, the Regional Security System (RSS), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) in assisting the country.