Coast Guard continues red zone evacuations
UP UNTIL April 13, members of the Coast Guard service were still risking their lives to get people out of the danger zone around La Soufrière, bringing the total number of persons rescued to 127.
“In the last five days, days after the evacuation order was given, we have still been picking up people at Owia (Fisheries Complex),” Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on Wednesday.
“…Yesterday was 12, the day before that was 12, the day before was 13, then 72, then 18.”
The reason the coastguard went back on April 13 was to rescue a 19-year-old said to have certain mental challenges who had not evacuated on the four previous trips. Even though the boat went with two of his uncles on April 12 to pick him up, another resident who decided to stay in the area apparently convinced him to stay.
“Somehow somebody had influence over him and yesterday(April 13) I asked the coastguard Commander again to go, because I went to sleep night before last with this young man on my mind, and I got up in the morning yesterday with him on my mind,” the Prime Minister revealed.
Commander Brenton Cain had valid concerns, including the increased risk to his staff now that the mountain has been producing incredibly dangerous pyroclastic flows.
These are mountain hugging masses of debris and ash which race down the volcano at speeds faster that a human can run or a car can drive.
Additionally, the volcanic ash has a detrimental effect on the engines of the vessels.
The Prime Minister said he’s grateful that the Commander, being a “a good and christian gentleman”, accepted to go, after he noted his worry and, ‘I say this young man is a symbol of our humanity, and it is a manifestation of our love and solidarity to go for him and it is an essential ingredient of our hope and our faith.”
The Coast Guard returned and got the teen out of the zone, along with 11 others.
On the other side of the island they have also had to send for help, “…even by road to Rose Hall, and we are getting those who, either persons
who had left elderly ones, or persons who for one reason of the other don’t want to come out.”
The Prime Minister made another plea to persons still in the zones that “…the window is narrowing sharply, and given the pyroclastic flows for heaven’s sake; leave…please, I am asking you, do not risk anymore your life and your limb. We have done well in having no deaths. We love you very much, we want to help to take care of you”.
Professor Richard Robertson, the scientist leading the team that is monitoring the volcano, has been advising the Prime Minister on the danger that the coastguard would faces going into these areas in the red zone. While the hazards have increased more recenly because of the pyroclastic flows, the volcano has also been erupting in a pattern wherein there are longer intervals between explosions. However, the nation has been cautioned that can change with the next explosion.
“…I’ve spoken to people in Chateaubelair and I’ve had this conversation eh- who said that ‘well I choosing that if I going to be killed, I going to be killed by the volcano, not by something else’, right, Robertson relayed.
While that may be okay for them, he said that “no matter what, we would always try to rescue people that do that, and I have a problem with them doing it because they’re not so much that they’re putting themselves at risk, but they’re putting other people which is what is happening now, in the context of the coastguard,” Professor Robertson pointed out.