Some evacuees unhappy with how they were asked to leave shelter
Several persons from villages on the north-western coast of St Vincent, who were housed at the Bethel High School shelter feel as though they were forced out of their temporary home.
On Wednesday, SEARCHLIGHT visited the shelter at Campden Park and spoke to evacuees who were packing up to leave for their homes in Petit Bordel and Chateaubelair following a government notice advising evacuees in communities within the orange hazard zone when they were to begin returning to their homes.
Marvlin Delpesche said she feels disrespected in the way they were asked to leave the shelter.
“They call the shelter manager and said a bus was coming to pick us up, and if we catch the bus so be it, but if we don’t catch it, we have to hire our own transportation which is not right.
“You bring us on a boat, and you supposed so take everybody and take them back. It is not nice at all,” said Delpesche.
She said the situation in North Leeward is bad, as ash is still everywhere and is creating health issues. She said on Tuesday her grandson went to their home and had to leave as he was continuously sneezing because of the ash dumped by the series of explosive eruptions of the volcano.
“This feel like when you use somebody,” said the farmer who added that her crops have been destroyed, and her pigs and sheep are missing.
She said she has twice returned to her home in Chateaubelair and the situation is bad.
Another woman who did not give her name, said when she was told they had to leave, she was surprised.
“The amount of ashes that down there is stifling you. The only thing they clean down there is the roads them,” she said of Petit Bordel.
Lloyd Edwards of Coco in Sharpes, Chateaubelair, said his home is filled with ash and he has been trying to clear it out, but had not completed the task when he was told he had to leave the shelter on Wednesday.
He said he takes care of an elderly man who wanted to return home, so he was trying to clean up the house and the surrounding areas.
“I am asking for a broom and shovel to clean the yard but them tell me, me have to leave,” said the farmer who lives near the road and said the ash is very heavy and needs removing.
The 67-year-old man said animals have destroyed his crops and all he wants is help with the clean up.
Another woman who spoke without giving her name, said before leaving, they were made to sign a document.
She said it seems as if the document was saying that they were leaving of their own volition but that was not the case.
“We signed a paper that said we were going home on Thursday, but they had said Friday was the deadline, but this morning, Wednesday, when we there, the shelter manager come and say they call and say get ready for 11’ o clock.
“You just can’t come and pick up and tell people get ready for 11 and it around 10’o clock. Even though they was coming this morning, call in an earlier time and say, but not just come saying get ready for 11,” the confused woman said.
She said she was told that if the truck left without them, they would have to find their own transportation to get home.
“Me yard paved with ash…me whole yard, my husband was trying to clean the ash,” the woman said.
Rupert Francois, a Rose Bank resident said his house was damaged by ash fall but he was told that he could stay at the shelter.
“If them put me out of here I would not have anywhere to sleep. I going back in there,” he said, pointing to the shelter.
He said he does not know how to get his house fixed and he is a fisherman who has not been able to ply his trade since the volcano erupted.
Director of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) Michelle Forbes, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that some persons have reservations about going back home because of the ongoing clean up, but they expect their largest movement of people over the weekend.
She said NEMO is providing support for persons returning home and in her opinion, the move is going smoothly with no hiccups.
“We understand that some persons do have reservations and we work with these individuals to address their individual situations,” Forbes said.
She added that the Ministry of National Mobilisation and the Ministry of Housing have started to look at the housing situation to determine homes that have been impacted, as some persons would not be able to return home even in the orange zone as some roofs have collapsed.
“That assessment has been ongoing so that we can guide the process,” she said while noting that they are looking at the short, medium and long term needs of evacuees as the cleanup continues.
Forbes said that after this weekend, about 3000 persons may still be in shelters as the red zone is “quite large” but those in private homes will return when they see fit.
She said there are still restrictions for persons who live north of the Rabacca bridge as that area has been heavily impacted by lahars and pyroclastic flows, and people must remember that these can continue for years.
“As we enter the rainy season that is one of the cautions that we have to remind persons, if you get trapped over Rabacca northwards you can be affected by lahars because there is tons of ash up in the mountains waiting to come down,” Forbes said.
She said persons from Fitz Hughes and Chateaubelair should not return home due to the large amount of ash in these communities which will take a while to clean up.
Forbes noted that persons have been going to the summit of the volcano, and she is advising them not to do so.
She said they are looking to reinstall volcano monitoring equipment which was damaged to be able to keep up to date with what is happening at the summit, but it is not yet safe enough for people to visit the summit of La Soufrière.