Disaster Alert Declared by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves (Updates from Emergency Press Conference)

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Updates from Emergency Press Conference held by the government of SVG with regard to increased activity at the La Soufriere volcano.

DR. RALPH GONSALVES (PRIME MINISTER & MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY): The Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has made a disaster declaration as it relates to increased activity at the La Soufriere volcano.

“A declaration has been made by me, in respect of a disaster alert.”

Gonsalves informed that a “disaster alert means that there is a substantial prospect of a disaster of a volcanic kind to strike within a period of time… hours, days or weeks.”

This stage three disaster alert takes place within the frame of the orange alert, and it is the stage which immediately precedes an order for evacuation.

“This is not an evacuation,” Gonsalves emphasized.

“We are putting matters in place… Do no panic, be disciplined be orderly. We will get this right together and we will build back stronger and we’d lift our country ever more.”

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DR. RICHARD ROBERTSON (GEOLOGIST): An explosive eruption could happen any time from no. It is possible that things could pick up more that you could have more clear seismic signals prior to explosion, but given what we’ve seen, it’s possible that it could happen in the next few hours, days.

Preparations with regard to evacuation should be finalized. Within a few hours, you may need to move people. “You need to be at a state where you need to move people out of harms way,” Robertson advised NEMO.

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MICHELLE FORBES (NEMO DIRECTOR): NEMO has been in discussion with relevant stakeholders to heighten readiness in the event that an evacuation may become necessary.

So far we have been preparing our emergency shelters. National mechanism is fully activated.

“We are at a stage where we can go into an explosive eruption. Those communities over the Rabacca. I want you to be ready in the event that you need to evacuate.”

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Schools will remain closed until further notice.

“In the meantime, we will continue to do teaching and learning by distance,” PM Gonsalves informed.

In less than two weeks, additional tablets for the purpose of e-teaching/learning should arrive in SVG.

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Detailed plans to come from the Ministry of Agriculture with regards to livestock protection.

Ministry of Agriculture in consultation with RSVGPF for the evacuation of animals.

Locations have been identified to house livestock.

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PM Gonsalves has been in touch with US Authorities, the Southern Command to mobilize assistance (transportation & technical).

Been in touch with Venezuelan and Cuban authorities, as they have assets which can be utilized.

Spoken with PMs of Barbados and St. Lucia as they have given a commitment in the case of evacuation, those countries will be prepared to take Vincetians for a particular period of time.

Chancellor of Grenadian University has informed PM that they can house 1800 persons. Antigua has a facility that can house 500.

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The Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line will have one vessel here by 8pm Thursday if required with a capacity to house 1,500 persons. A second vessel can arrive shortly after.

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Arrangements are being made with hotels and guesthouses to accommodate front line workers. Some will go into emergency shelters.

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CWSA has given indication that water supply would be locked off in the event of an explosive eruption. Water would be transported to various areas. Drinking water has to be sourced.

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DR. SIMONE KEIZER-BEACHE (CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER): As SVG is in a stage of community spread of COVID-19, it is strongly recommended that person who may have to be evacuated to an emergency shelter, be vaccinated, as emergency shelters are defined as confined spaces.

The Modern Medical Diagnostic Center (MMDC) in Georgetown would be closed in the event of an ecavuation. Services would be moved to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) in Kingstown.

Chateaubelair Smart hospital will be closed. Staff will be resigned to other facilities within the green zone.

Elective procedures at the MCMH would be suspended to allow for any increased admissions from persons impacted from explosive eruption.

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COLIN JOHN (COMMISSIONER OF POLICE): Several meetings with the division of commanders have been held. Identified vulnerable persons in red zones, persons with private transport and those that may need. Persons have expressed willingness to assist with evacuations.

The police have been in consultation with Regional Security System (RSS), ready and willing to assist when they are called upon.

Coast Guard Service to make increased patrols.

“From the police standpoint, we are as ready as possible and we would be prepared to operate as soon as we are called upon.”