Red alert! Evacuation details outlined
THE EVACUATION of communities in the red hazard zone of La Soufriere began yesterday afternoon as the evacuation order was given by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at an aferenoon press conference- his second for the day.
St Vincent as the Grenadines was placed on red alert, after information from the scientists monitoring the volcano led them to advise that an explosive eruption was imminent and could happen within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made the announcement sometime after 4pm yesterday during that second emergency press conference – held in relation to increased activity at the volcano.
Prior to the evacuation order being issued, the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force sent out a press release advising that all officers are to report for duty at their respective stations, units or departments immediately.
“All members of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) and its auxiliary forces who are currently on vacation leave are hereby informed that all leave has been cancelled with immediate effect,” the release said.
Commissioner of Police, Colin John said yesterday at the PM’s first press conference, that the Police are in a good position to respond to the threat of an explosive volcanic eruption.
John, who serves as the chairperson of the Evacuation Committee, said that he has held several meetings with divisional commanders, especially those in the red zone.
“We have identified the vulnerable persons and looked at ways in which we can get them out of these areas as best as possible,” the commissioner of police said.
He added that his committee has also “identified the persons with transportation, private or public and consultations were held with those persons, most of whom have indicated their willingness to assist.
Sirens sounded on the Leeward side of the island as evacuation efforts continued into the night of persons in the red zone. Traffic jams were also experinced on the Windward side of the island as well, as persons sought out safer accommodations.
The Commissioner of Police said he had been in consultation with the Regional Security System, which is ready and willing to assist whenever called upon.
He assured that the evacuation committee has met and set up standard operating procedures for evacuation in all circumstances.
Police officers are also expected to play a pivotal role in the management of evacuation facilities.
“ We know that the volcano is very dynamic and we cannot cater for every eventuality but as best as possible, we are doing that. We are also in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture in terms of evacuation of animals and the places they will be kept,” he said.
Under the established protocols, the Coast Guard will carry out additional sea patrols during the disaster.
The Ministry of Agriculture has taken necessary measures to preserve the safety of both private and public assets.
Saboto Caesar, the agriculture minister said this is phase one of the ministry’s plan regarding an explosive eruption.
Caesar, who also spoke at the press conference yesterday, revealed that about 90 per cent of livestock have already been tagged to ensure that persons can identify their animals. The ministry is ensuring that the livestock of people who have to be evacuated is secured.
Animals are expected to be kept at two identified locations.
Equipment at the Tissue Culture lab in Orange Hill, which is situated in the red zone, is also already being moved to another station in Mesopotamia.
…And, other government assets in the red zone will be relocated.
The agriculture minister said phase two addresses food security “because we have to ensure that there is affordable food, that persons would have access to food”.
Phase three addresses recovery as analysis reveals that a significant percentage of food consumed locally will be devastated from the impact of ash fall and other materials.
“As it pertains to persons who are into the production of bees, apiculture, I’m aware that they will be taking them down to a site where we have the old airport at Arnos Vale. So, a lot of work has been done…” Caesar said. Several owners of livestock living in the designated red zone had expressed reluctance to move once an evacuation order is given, because of concerns about the possible theft of their animals.