Steve April 15, 2021
st-vincent-volcano:-‘we-don’t-know-if-we-can-go-home’
media captionAsh fell like snow on Saint Vincent following the eruptions

Volcanic eruptions on St Vincent have blanketed the Caribbean island in ash, forcing 16,000 residents from their homes and leaving many without power or running water.

Many of those there say they do not know when or if they will be able to return home.

Shellisa Nanton, 26, lives with her family in the red zone – the areas at highest risk – in Georgetown. She told the BBC they had just hours to leave before La Soufriere erupted on Friday.

“We felt tremors in the days leading up to the eruption but we were not told to evacuate until the last minute.

“We were frantic when we heard the call to leave. We had to gather our things so quickly,” she said.

Shellisa said it was painful to leave the home she shared with her mother, sister, her sister’s partner and their two-year-old child.

“We were all scrambling to get our belongings together and we could feel the heat. It was heart wrenching and overwhelming to just leave our home like that, leaving behind so many memories.

“We’ve had hurricanes before but nothing like this.”

image copyrightReuters

image captionLayers of ash are covering roads and buildings in St Vincent

Shellisa says they were lucky that they were able to leave the red zone in their truck. Many others did not have any transportation.

“When we finally got the truck going we passed many people on the narrow roads, who like us were leaving, but on foot and carrying what they could. It was so sad and depressing to see.

“We were on the road all night until we reached the south. I don’t know how many people made it out.”

Shellisa and her family are now living with a family friend in the south of the island in Campden Park. She says this is their home for now.

“We don’t know if we can go home. We don’t know if there’s a home to go back to.

“We are planning to stay here for at least a few months. We just don’t know yet the extent of the damage. It’s very sad.”

‘Roofs caved in because of the ash’

On the island’s green zone away from the La Soufriere volcano Shanniel Johnson lives with her extended family.

She told the BBC despite living in the safer’ green zone the ash from the eruption caused massive devastation which has only just improved somewhat thanks to the rain.

“Roofs caved in on homes because of the heavy ash fall. It’s been dark for a few days and there have been more eruptions since Friday,” she told the BBC.

Shanniel says the ash carpeting the island had left them without water to drink, cook or wash.

“The ash contaminated the water but thankfully it has rained recently so the ash is clearing in some areas.

“But we need humanitarian aid. A lot of people have been displaced and are in shelters.”

image copyrightReuters

image captionPrime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has been visiting shelters across the island

“Many of my family members live in red zones in the north of the island and I’ve been helping them to move down south where I live,” Jomo Thomas told the BBC.

“It’s an horrific scene – since Friday there has been a series of eruptions,” the lawyer explained.

“About four or five thousand are in shelters. But the problem is that many of the shelters are schools and because they are in the tropics there is a lot of ventilation, so the dust can easily come through.”

Many of those who can are trying to leave the island.

‘Incredible but terrifying’

Rhiannon West and her family are British nationals, living on the island under temporary residency rules.

The teacher hopes to return to the UK with her partner and six-month-old baby.

“We stood outside our home on Saturday and watched as the volcano erupted and a huge billowing cloud of ash was sent into the air. It was incredible but also terrifying.

“Since then we’ve been sheltering indoors with everything closed.

“It’s scary thinking about what we can do to protect the baby

“We keep losing electricity, have no water supply and no bottled water left at the closest shops.”

“This could go on for weeks and neither of us can work because of the power supply issues.

“The atmosphere is just very eerie.”

from the BBC

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