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PM orders shutdown as SVG braces for Tropical Storm Elsa

PM orders shutdown as SVG braces for Tropical Storm Elsa
The National Emergency Management Council in a planning meeting on Thursday afternoon in preparation for the impact of the storm.

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All nonessential businesses and schools were ordered closed on Friday, July 2 as the nation braced for the impact of Tropical Storm Elsa.

The National Emergency Management Council held a planning meeting on Thursday afternoon in preparation for the impact of the storm. Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who chairs the National Emergency Council, is in quarantine and attended via videoconferencing and later, spoke to the nation.

In his address, the Prime Minister outlined five decisions that were made during Thursday’s meeting:

1.  All businesses, schools and public services were to be closed on July 2. Only essential services such as the Police, health services, utilities (Central Water and Sewerage Authority and VINLEC) will remain open.

2. No ferry service to be in operation between mainland and the Grenadines or vice versa on Friday.

3. All emergency shelters activated at 6am on July 2. COVID19 protocols as outlined by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment are in full effect at these shelters.

4.  The Argyle International Airport will remain closed on Friday.

5.  The National Emergency Operation Centre becomes fully activated at 6am on Friday morning.

“As we continue the preparations for the passage of Tropical Storm Elsa, I urge everyone to continue to listen to the updates from the met services and all the releases from NEMO [the National Emergency Management Organisation]. I ask you to do the usual things. Stock up on water, food, medicines and emergency supplies,” Gonsalves said in a broadcast carried live on television, radio and social media.

He urged persons to make arrangements to stay with friends and family if their houses are not safe, or to check where the nearest emergency shelter is located and move ahead of the storm, which was forecast to arrive in SVG around midday Friday.

“Do not take tropical storm Elsa for granted…as the system has the potential to produce gusty and storm force winds and heavy rainfall and rough seas which are all dangerous,” the Prime Minister said.

Gonsalves further urged everyone, particularly those in the Northern Grenadines and mainland St Vincent to be very careful, as this is within the projected path of Tropical Storm Elsa.

Dr Godwin Friday, the Opposition Leader and Parliamentary Representative for the Northern Grenadines, also urged persons to exercise caution and prepare for the storm.

“I want to urge all of our people to take this seriously and do what preparations they can to ensure that their property and lives…are as secure as they can make them at this time,” he warned during an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Thursday morning.

According to a release from the NEMO dated June 30, the system is moving towards the west-north-west near 21 mph (33km/h) and this motion was projected to continue with an increase in forward speed during the next couple days.

Given the recent volcanic eruptions and ongoing threats of hazards, “the National Emergency Management Organisation is also reminding persons who are frequenting the communities north of the Rabacca River up to Fancy, that heavy rainfall can result in dangerous lahars and mudflows and these areas remain restricted’’.

The release said lahars continue to pose a dangerous threat to the river valleys surrounding the volcano, including Wallilabou, Rabacca, Sandy Bay and Owia.

Residents were therefore being asked to limit or avoid visiting these areas.

The release also stated that ‘it is expected that whenever rain falls, there will be significant steaming, particularly where pyroclastic density currents have come down”.

It also warned that “the pyroclastic density currents can result in warm or hot mudflows, which will also steam. This means that it would not be unusual to have significant steaming in some or all of the valley on the volcano. Also, while this steaming would be mainly focused in the upper parts of the valleys, due to the fact that the mudflows can also steam, the steaming can extend all the way down the valley to the coastline”.