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St Vincent PM pleads with residents to leave volcano red zone area


KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves yesterday made an impassioned plea for people to leave the red zone area as the La Soufriere volcano continues to erupt, generating possibly pyroclastic density currents (PCD).

Gonsalves, speaking on the State-owned NBC Radio, said that there were still people residing in the area within the volcano who were still refusing to leave even as the authorities have sent the Coast Guard vessels and vehicles to get them out.

“Persons who have left elderly ones or persons who, for one reason or the other, do not want to come out [please notice that] the window is narrowing sharply and given the pyroclastic flows, for heaven’s sake, leave!

“If you are over in Fancy, or in Point or in Sandy Bay, wherever you are, get to Owia as the cycles and pattern of the eruptions, the prospects of the pyroclastic flows [show that] we have narrow windows.

“Please, I am asking you do not risk anymore of your life and your limb. We have done well in having no deaths, no injuries. We love you very much, we want to help to take care of you,” Gonsalves said.

He said since the evacuation order was given last Friday, the Coast Guard has made at least five trips removing more than 100 people, including a 19-year-old man whose family had been reluctant to allow him to leave.

Gonsalves said in addition to the hazards caused by the erupting volcano, St Vincent and the Grenadines is also dealing with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Yesterday for instance, you could see why the Ministry of Health is concerned about doing the PCR test and doing vaccinations because we are in the time of COVID. One of the 12 persons (evacuated) yesterday is someone who just over two weeks ago was tested positive.

“We could not find him to test him over even when the community health services went looking for him. He is one of the late stragglers. We are testing them now [but] we don’t know the results as yet. But you know all those who were on the vessel will have to be tested and if there is any problem there is the question of contact tracing at a time like this.

“This is why for persons who are encouraging people not to test or not to take the vaccine, they are irresponsible,” Gonsalves said.

He told listeners that law enforcement authorities have stepped up their surveillance after two people were arrested in the red zone area, having arrived there by boat, in a bid to rob the houses of persons who had evacuated and gone into shelters.

“For instance we got reports yesterday and we intercepted two persons that we got intelligence that there were persons who had arrived at a particular area on the Leeward side of the island which has been evacuated.

“The intelligence was that they were to break into houses and to take people’s important valuables and put them on boat and go elsewhere and sell and so forth,” Gonsalves said, noting that while the two people had been intercepted, no goods were found in their possession.

He said that security persons from Trinidad and Tobago, the Barbados-based Regional Security System and another Caribbean country were due to arrive there later yesterday to beef up security.

Earlier, the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of The University of the West Indies (UWI) said that an explosion occurred at 11.00 pm on Tuesday night and that seismic activity at the volcano, which erupted last Friday had changed with explosive activity.

“The volcano continues to erupt explosively and has now begun to generate pyroclastic density currents. Explosions and accompanying ashfall, of similar or larger magnitude, are likely to continue to occur over the next few days,” the SRC added.

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