Some residents up north don’t plan to relocate despite pounding
BY KATHERINE RENTON
Despite everything they have been through and are still going through living beneath the Soufrière volcano, many, especially older individuals, who live in the Northern most portion of the country will not contemplate leaving their homes.
“The river run in on me how many times,” 64-year-old Thomas Sutherland said speaking about his Sandy Bay residence a short distance away.
The river in that area, formed when there is rainfall, has been cutting more routes since the time it travelled with mud, boulders and trees, and stacked these by the bridge which is around 100ft away from his home.
It has come inside his property, “only once – the first day when it bring down all these big stone here,” Sutherland recalled, “But hear what happening now, is like the vehicle on the road. The road is there already so the vehicle will always pass on the road.”
Watching the water come closer “day by day, day by day”, is a scary thing for the homeowner, but he mused, “Well I is a Sandy Bay man, I born here, grow here, live here.”
Sutherland never left Sandy Bay even when the volcano was shooting magma from its depths into the atmosphere, noting he never was afraid of it. He, like all who remain in these villages, has been surviving on water from a nearby spring, with no electricity and on little food.
“I have my lands, I go to my lands, I could still pick a breadfruit, I could still get a little grindy, a banana, so I carry myself that way,” he explained.
There are so many problems, he said, “…if you want to travel it’s not that easy, you might have to start walking from here to reach all Orange Hill or certain place before somebody can help you because most of the vehicle passing here they’re full out already cannot take you, and there’s no van working neither… but mind you the zone is closed so you have to accept it that way there.”
And yet he cannot see himself moving. “To go where?” he quipped at the question, “…Is only a nice little woman can take me where she might like me to have me…apart from that I not in anything with nobody moving out of my zone.”
Even if a piece of land or other alternative were offered to him, he said he doesn’t need it.
“…Because survival there might be difficult than here,” the farmer/contractor reasoned.
“I have all my lands here, my father die so many years ago and my mother too and leave for us to carry on, so if I leave now and I go – let’s say Georgetown, Colonarie, you call name – it wouldn’t make sense to me, because I don’t have no place to go in the mountain and put my crop and get things nice.”
Seventy-six-year-old Felix Baptiste-Toppin reckons “I living over time now because the bible tell you three score and ten right?”
He also didn’t budge when the volcano was erupting recalling: “…We see some fellas who say they ain’ running, when the first bullet leh go up inside up there… they mash off like a lightening.”
Living as long as he has, through La Soufrière’s 1971 and 1979 eruption phases, he has seen “the old folks and them who dead and gone, they wear and tear with this Soufrière here right? And they live it out right? Until the Lord call them home.”
If the young people want to leave, it is left to them, he said.
“Right here I will stay,” he said decidedly.
Rebuilding and cleaning of the community is the future path that he sees “…Clean up the place nice and everything.”
Seventy-five-year-old John Cordice, born and raised in Overland, is of much the same opinion. He evacuated when the call was given and returned home on June 30, where he and his wife have remained since.
They have done so despite being without water, electricity and food.
“…We get water from the people who donate water, who go and get drinking water by the case and so on… but the water we get to wash is from when rain come, we set up drums and so on,” Cordice explained.
“Here is where I born and I’m staying here until the good Lord of heaven say well he ready to move me out and that’s it,” Cordice, a farmer, commented. He and his wife remain in St Vincent and the Grenadines but the rest of his family resides overseas.
As for where he sees the future taking the village, he stated: “Well it’s a lot of ting you know but we had to wait and watch and see what is going on…” However, not everyone is determined to remain despite the circumstances. Alana Ballantyne is a 25-year-old resident of Sandy Bay, and as she spoke to SEARCHLIGHT, she stood with her boyfriend over the bank created by intense flows into that area and making it impassable to most transportation. Up until this Sunday, July 11, what appeared to be a lahar was filmed by a Sandy Bay resident who added the caption that her hope level was really dwindling quickly.
“… I don’t mind staying up here you know. I don’t mind, but the only thing is the light and the water right now,” she revealed. She had followed the advice of the experts and evacuated when La Soufrière volcano was acting up, and at the time of speaking had returned for about two weeks.
Seeing the condition of Sandy Bay, Ballantyne doesn’t feel “good” about the future.
“…It feels devastating because right now this doesn’t look like before and it is not a nice thing, it is not a nice thing,” she stressed.
“…It is hard for vehicle to pass and pass from here to over there, and we cannot come from one area to another with ease, because when you reach London, if you don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle you cannot pass, and it is hard for some people. If you want to come from up here to work in ‘Town’ you cannot do that at the moment.”
Another consideration she has is that she understands that persons can’t accommodate her for a long period at the private home where she had sought shelter in the South of the mainland.
If it is the case that she is given help by the authorities to move somewhere else, the young woman said that she wouldn’t mind moving.