Volcano Eruption Endangering St. Vincent Civilians

A volcano that has been dormant for years has harmful effects on the health and safety of residents and families in the area. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an island within the Lesser Antilles, a group of islands in the Caribbean sea, and is located northeast of Barcelona. The island lifestyle was interrupted by an emerging volcano, located on the north side of the island, called La Soufrière. The volcano began erupting on the morning of April 9th. Though there are no civilian casualties, according to national geographic 20,000-30,000 civilians residing in the area need to be evacuated to safety.

The eruptions and earthquakes have been nonstop, spewing hot ash across the island causing harm to the island’s crops, electricity, and water systems. Due to the constant flow of hot ash from the volcano, authorities are unable to harvest any water resulting in a depletion of water storage larger than 50%, the news outlet Al Jazeera reported. The hot ash blowing from the volcano is drawing in neighboring locations. The effects of this eruption have spread as far as to Barbados, which is 120 miles east of St. Vincent. Similarly, citizens in the neighboring island of St. Lucia, approximately 47 miles north, are urged to be alert to changes in air quality.

The volcano, La Soufrière, began showing signs of eruption in December of 2020 but only became harmful to the mass public in April of 2021. It is not the first time this volcano has had harmful effects, as it has previously erupted in 1979 as well as 1902. Historically the La Soufrière volcano has lasted two weeks in 1979, and eight months in 1902. Scientists say that the recent eruption has a magnitude similar to that of the eruption in 1902, posing a dangerous threat to St.Vincent civilians and agriculture.

The international response to this conflict is to aid in providing food, water, and rescue assistance. A country in the Caribbean called St.Kitts and Nevis has promised to help St.Vincent with a donation of $1 million in disaster relief. Barbados has extended a crew to deliver UNICEF relief supplies and assistance. Similarly, countries and other islands in the Caribbean are welcoming civilians to safety through the use of empty cruise ships. Of St. Vincent’s population of 110,000, BBC News states that so far 16,000 people have been relocated to safety. Though there are efforts being made to bring more civilians to safety, the pandemic complicates such matters. The Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, is allowing COVID-19 vaccinated civilians to find shelter in another country, as neighboring nations are solely accepting vaccinated civilians from St.Vincent.

The St. Vincent government has classified this eruption as a red alert threat, ordering all residents to evacuate safely. Efforts are being made to provide St. Vincent with donations and humanitarian assistance. The COVID-19 vaccine plays a role in determining who is allowed to evacuate safely to a neighbouring country. This requirement discriminates against those who are unable, or not inclined to receive the vaccine. Gonsalves, the prime minister, must create an evacuation plan ensuring all St. Vincent civilians are able to find security despite having the COVID-19 vaccine or not. The magnitude of this eruption is alarming and precautions should be taken in order to avoid potential casualties. 

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