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St Vincent & the Grenadines: La Soufrière Volcano - Dec 2020

Saint-Vincent et les Grenadines
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Types de catastrophes

On 29th December 2020, the alert level for the La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was elevated to orange because of increased activity at the site...An orange level alert means that there is highly elevated seismicity or fumarolic activity, or both, and other highly unusual symptoms. Eruptions may occur with less than 24 hours’ notice. Monitoring systems are continuously staffed and there is regular visual inspection of potential vent areas as well as continuous ground deformation and hydrothermal monitoring. (OCHA, 16 Mar 2021)

On 11 April, NEMO indicated that there were pyroclastic flows (pyroclast is a cloud of hot ash and rock) at La Soufrière Volcano and possible destruction and devastation of communities close to the volcano...On 11 April, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) indicated that eighty-five (85) shelters were occupied with approximately 3,586 people. There is an undisclosed number of self-evacuees, who are staying with family and friends. 5 On 9 April at approximately 8:41 am, the La Soufrière volcano entered an explosive eruptive phase with the first column of ash as high as 10 km...On 8 April, following significant seismic activity, there was an explosive event at the volcano site. Following an emergency meeting of Cabinet and the National Emergency Council, the alert level was raised to RED and an Evacuation Order Issued. (OCHA, 12 Apr 2021)

Per the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), more than 3,900 people remain in 80 shelters due to the La Soufrière volcanic eruption despite the 25 May Government deadline for people from communities outside the still-restricted red zone to return home. Although transportation from shelters is available, people are still clearing their homes of ash and cleaning, with many either returning to shelters or having no income or reason to leave. (OCHA, 31 May 2021)

On 29 December 2020, the La Soufrière volcano alert level in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was elevated due to increased volcanic activity. By 8 April 2021, the alert level increased to Red, with government authorities issuing immediate evacuation orders for nearby communities' volcanoes. On 9 April 2021, La Soufrière erupted for the first time after 40 years, sending an ash plume of 10km into the sky. The resulting ashfall was very heavy in the surrounding areas, reaching nearby islands and halting area air traffic. Subsequent eruptions, lava flows, earthquakes, ash plumes, and seismic activity continued throughout April. In early May, explosions subsided, but seismic activity and the risk of lahars persisted with the increased rainfall. An estimated 23,400 people were displaced to the southern end of St Vincent and the Grenadine and some neighbouring countries. They were originally received in 85 government-run formal collective shelters (4,417 persons) and informal collective shelters like hotels and rented residences. Many are private homes hosted by family and friends (18,927 persons). Unfortunately, the data provided by NEMO was not desegregated, making the identification of more specific needs of the population more difficult without further inquiry. These numbers were challenging to track at the onset of the disaster with multiple registration sources but have since been centralized, verified, and corrected by the Ministry of National Mobilization and NEMO. On 6 May 2021, the Government of St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, with the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), lowered the Volcanic Alert Level from Red to Orange, noting that no significant activity had been observed since the April 22 eruptions. Accordingly, school resumed on May 17 for students scheduled to write external examinations this year. On 20 May, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines announced that persons displaced from most of the orange and some parts of the red volcano hazard zones could return home (except Chateaubelair and Fitz-Hughes communities in the Orange Zone). In addition, the community of Georgetown in the Red Zone was to be returning home by 1 June. However, access to the Red Zone areas north of Georgetown on the Windward side of St. Vincent remains hazardous, and the potential for injury remains. Residents are also asked not to visit the La Soufrière volcano. According to the 31 May UWI Seismic Research Centre update, persistent steaming is observable from the observatory once the cloud cover is high enough. The volcano continues to be in a state of unrest. Escalation inactivity can still take place with little or no warning. NEMO is looking to re-establish remote sensors on the volcanoes to help determine the hazard and potentially open the last zones to returns. As of 1 June, 72 collective shelters managed by the Ministry of Education (MoE) are still open (two of these are expected to relocate remaining families). (IFRC, 11 Jun 2021)

Approximately USD 11.1 million (38 percent) has been raised under the USD 29.2 million UN Global Funding Appeal to support Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The volcano remains in a state of unrest, and as indicated by UWI Seismic Research Centre, residents from the RED and ORANGE zones have to live and adapt to a new and changing environment. (OCHA/UNRC, 30 Jul 2021)

People sheltered due to the April volcano eruption have been cleared to return to their homes. The Government has lowered their Volcanic Alert level for the La Soufrière volcano from ORANGE to YELLOW five months after the volcano’s April 2021 eruption that prompted the UN in Barbados to launch a USD 29 million appeal. With the downgraded alert, residents who had evacuated from areas surrounding the volcano are now allowed to return to their homes, with the shelter population last reported to be at around 393 in 19 shelters. The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) indicates that while the La Soufriere’s activity levels have declined over the past three months, the volcano is still restless and exhibiting seismic and/or fumarolic activity above historical levels before the April eruption. Lahars and heavy steaming and degassing will persist for some time during high rains, presenting an added threat ahead of the peak of the 2021 hurricane season. (OCHA/UNRC, 17 Sep 2021)