Volcanic ash blankets Eastern Caribbean islands

As if Covid-19 and dengue fever aren’t enough, Caribbean economies now have one more hazard to deal with. La Soufrière volcano on St Vincent rumbles and threatens lives and livelihoods. Health systems are again under strain and long-term exposure to ash will worsen people’s health and wellness.

The eruptions of the La Soufrière volcano in St Vincent continue, people have evacuated from the red zone, businesses are closed, water and electricity services are out in many places. There is a shortage of drinking water. Thick ash covers everything, everywhere. Water supplies, tanks, cots, and other humanitarian aid are arriving from neighbouring islands.


The La Soufriere volcano on the Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines has had a new “explosive event”. On Saturday, eruptions and rumbling emanating from La Soufriere continued as Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves ordered the evacuation of residents close to the activity.

St Vincent volcano: New ‘explosive event’ causes power cuts

Volcanic ash in St Vincent & the Grenadines is causing an impact on all Eastern Caribbean islands

Barbados was starting to fully open up after a second lockdown, and now everyone is again in a state of uncertainty. Retail stores and some public services are closed on Monday April 12 for the start of clean up and the airport remains closed until April 14. The region’s seismic experts and vulcanologists are not able to say how long the ash fall will continue. There is an eerie feeling throughout.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados
Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados

On Friday April 9 on the advice of seismic teams, the government of St Vincent & the Grenadines ordered those living in the red zone, the north of the island, to evacuate. Some have gone to shelters, others to some of the nearby inhabited islands of the Grenadines, or to the homes of friends and family in the safe zones, while others are staying on cruise ships that have gone to the island to assist with the humanitarian efforts. On Sunday April 11, powerful eruptions in St Vincent caused island-wide power outages. The AstraZeneca vaccine roll out is well underway in these islands with those who received their first dose in February scheduled to receive the second starting April 17.

Cindy Pierre Charles

We are locked in as everywhere is heavily coated, visibility impossible in some areas, the sulphuric smell is overwhelming, asthmatics crying out, you have no idea, it's just overwhelming.

From the time of the evacuation order and as eruptions started, PSI’s sub-regional secretary for the Caribbean was in contact with representatives and colleagues of the Public Service Union of St Vincent & the Grenadines. Everyone is safe but certainly in a state of extreme discomfort and mental stress. The union represents many in the health and social services sector as well as in emergency services. Public workers are to report to work on Monday April 12. This new hazard adds tremendously to the anxiety as other health concerns now take centre stage. Long exposure to volcanic ash contributes to acute and chronic lung disease.

Kendra Horne Chair of the young workers’ network, PSU of SVG

Good morning Sister, place smells and looks horrible everywhere. However, no lives lost as a result, still hopeful.

CARICOM’s (Caribbean Community) Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is coordinating the region-wide response to the people of St Vincent & the Grenadines, with support from PAHO Caribbean, providing valuable advice, logistical assistance and support to the local National Emergency Management Office (NEMO).

Jillian Bartlett PSI’s Executive Board member from the Caribbean

The exhausted frontline workers are again called upon. When will this end? We are stretched to the limit. There isn’t enough staff.

Caribbean countries and institutions once again show their resilience and come together once again to help each other. Governments across the region have sent requested supplies and have offered to accommodate those displaced by the volcano.

Tifonie Powell Caribbean’s substitute member on PSI’s World Women’s Committee (WOC)

Together we will once again rise from all this. On behalf of PSI affiliates in the Caribbean, I send solidarity and prayers to all those who are affected. We’ll work on this together. We will get through it.

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Regular updates from Facebook page of UWI Seismic Research Centre

Video from DW - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfnGJkxU_vU