Bridgetown, Barbados, (PAHO)- The Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has mobilized to help the government of Saint Vincent and Grenadines respond to eruption activity of Volcano La Soufriere and to a possible explosive eruption.
After several days of increased seismic activity, Saint Vincent and Grenadines has issued a red alert and evacuation order for nearly 20.000 people who live in the northern part of the main island of St. Vincent, where Volcano La Soufriere is located.
PAHO/WHO, through its Eastern Caribbean office based in Barbados, is coordinating with Saint Vincent national authorities to identify critical needs and is supporting the Ministry of Health with technical advice on enforcement of public health measures, and with shipments of 150,000 medical masks, other personal protective equipment, medical supplies and test kits.
PAHO/WHO has already provided 60,000 medical masks, 7,000 respirators and 6,000 gowns to Barbados Defense Force emergency medical team to support a possible deployment of their military to perform emergency response activities.
The country´s National Emergency Management Operations (NEMO) has alerted of heavy ash-fall in areas surrounding the volcano, as well as gases and volcanic emissions, which signal stronger seismic activity.
Several commercial cruise ships are evacuating Saint Vincent residents to neighboring islands of St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, and Antigua. The evacuation process has been difficult as visibility is very poor due to ash emissions, reports indicate. Some people are also being evacuated to shelters in safe areas within St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Evacuation and shelter operations elevate the risk for SARS-CoV-2 virus spread. Officials are administering covid-19 vaccines and rapid antigen tests to determine active infection before entering facilities. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has reported 1,766 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic among its approximately 110,000 inhabitants.
PAHO/WHO currently has two staff members in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and additional PAHO/WHO public health experts are on standby for rapid deployment. The organization is also coordinating health emergency response actions with United Nations agencies in the Eastern Caribbean, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and other international partners.