After months of living in shelters across St Vincent, evacuees from communities north of the Dry River, up to and including Owia, have been given the all clear to return home permanently.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made the announcement on Tuesday while speaking on We FM during the Shake Up programme, where he said the decision was taken at a meeting of the National Emergency Management Council.
An announcement was also made on the National Emergency Management Organisation’s Facebook page.
Gonsalves said the displaced residents are being asked to leave the shelters by Monday, August 23.
“I also want to say to everybody that we want you to move because we have to get the schools in order, to do the repairs and everything for the school, for children to go back on the 4th of October,” he said. “We have to get that done. That’s vital. We can’t
have the children affected in an adverse way so we are making all the preparations.”
October 4 is the tentative date given for the physical reopening of schools. Except for students who were preparing for external examinations, students have not been able to attend face-to-face classes since the close of the first semester in 2020.
According to Gonsalves, there are 33 shelters still open, 26 them being schools.
More than1500 persons still occupy these shelters.
The prime minister noted that the numbers have not been decreasing significantly because people are leaving, going into their communities for a few days and returning to the shelters.
“Some of them will come down on Thursday, stay Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday…they come to Heritage Square, they go to whatever events, sometimes they bring other people into the shelters and some of them, the shelter managers can’t talk to them because they threatening them,” he said on radio.
Gonsalves said he expects that by Monday, residents up to Owia would have already returned home.
He added that “there are a small number of persons who can’t go back to their homes and we’ll identify those and make arrangements”.
He urged residents returning to communities north of the Dry River to stay away from valleys and to be very careful in that regard.