St. Vincent seeks water, funds as volcano keeps erupting

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Ash rises into the air as La Soufriere volcano erupts on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Orvil Samuel)

KINGSTOWN – Leaders of volcano-wracked St. Vincent said Tuesday that water is running short as heavy ash contaminates supplies, and they estimated that the eastern Caribbean island will need hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from the eruption of La Soufriere.

Between 16,000 to 20,000 people have been evacuated from the island’s northern region, where the exploding volcano is located, with more than 3,000 of them staying at more than 80 government shelters.

Dozens of people stood in lines on Tuesday for water or to retrieve money sent by friends and family abroad. Among those standing in one crowd was retired police officer Paul Smart.

“The volcano caught us with our pants down, and it’s very devastating,” he said. “No water, lots of dust in our home. We thank God we are alive, but we need more help at this moment.”

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said in a press conference on local station NBC Radio that St. Vincent will need hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from the eruption but did not give any details.

He added that no casualties have been reported since the first big blast from the volcano early Friday. “We have to try and keep that record,” he said. Gonsalves said some people have refused to leave communities closest to the volcano and urged them to evacuate.

Falling ash and pyroclastic flows have destroyed crops and contaminated water reservoirs. Garth Saunders, minister of the island’s water and sewer authority, noting that some communities have not yet received water.

“The windward (eastern) coast is our biggest challenge today,” he said during the press conference of efforts to deploy water trucks. “What we are providing is a finite amount. We will run out at some point.”