Volcano photo exhibition now open to public
A member of the public viewing some the photos on display at the "Beyond the Ashes" exhibition
November 15, 2019
Volcano photo exhibition now open to public

An exhibition which explores the past eruptive activity of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ active volcano is now open to the public until November 22.

The photo exhibition, which is dubbed “Beyond the Ashes” officially opened at the Old Public Library on Tuesday, November 12 with the aim of sharing the experience of the past crises due to the eruptions of La Soufriere.

Dr Joan latchman

Dr Joan Latchman of the UWI Seismic Research Centre, in her remarks at the ceremony, spoke of the Volcano Ready Communities project that is ongoing.

She said the project seeks to support communities in the northern areas of St Vincent, in order to reduce vulnerability to future eruptions that may be on the scale or larger than the 1902 eruption.

“In 1902, more than 31,000 people lost their lives. In 1979, following the reminder of the potential 1971 dome building La Soufriere eruption brought back to the more immediate consciousness of Vincentians; no lives were lost,” she said.

She added that “lives were lost in 1902, in spite of the long period of precursor indicators that eruption was more likely than not. In 1979, with less than 24 hours warning, knowing what to do and doing it made the difference”.

Dr Latchman said that in more recent eruptions in the Caribbean, like the 1997 eruption in Montserrat where 20 people died, it was not that the science was inadequate, but the resilience mechanisms were.

The scientist said that the UWI Seismic Research Centre will continue to partner with local and regional preparedness agencies as well as land use planning authorities to promote safe, sustainable and resilient development.

“At this time, we still do not have a perfect understanding of all the possible variables, but we should do our best with what we know and have and improve as more insights develop,” she said.

Elvis Charles, the coordinator of the Renewal at 40 committee also delivered brief remarks at the opening of the exhibition.

Charles noted that when La Soufriere erupted in 1979, St Vincent and the Grenadines also gained their independence some months after.

And as this country celebrates its 40th anniversary of independence under the theme “With strength, honour and dignity, we stand resolute at 40 and beyond”, Charles said that the country’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) also stands resolute.

“They (NEMO) serve as a priest, reminding Vincentians, reminding us all about disasters, about the La Soufriere eruption, not to be complacent, not to be arrogant, teaching us how to live, should there be another eruption,” he said.

He added: “And this institution is not reactive but proactive. Structures and systems have been established, that if there is another eruption, we would not be running about as headless chickens but we will be strong. We would know what to do and how to do things to make life comfortable for all of us”.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves delivered the feature address at Tuesday’s event.

The exhibition features close to 40 photos, including one taken by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, Keith Rowley, who worked as a geologist at the UWI Seismic Research Centre during the 1979 volcanic eruption.