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Evacuated farmers worried about produce and livestock left behind

Evacuated farmers worried about produce and livestock left behind
Jefron King, a farmer of Chateaubelair, is worried about his livestock and produce left behind.

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As La Soufriere continues her explosive eruptions in the north of St Vincent, farmers who have evacuated their homes in the red zone are concerned about the produce and livestock they had to leave behind.

La Soufriere began erupting explosively yesterday, April 9 at 8:41 am, four days shy of its 42nd anniversary and again, on the second Friday in April.

Evacuation of persons in the red hazard zone began on Thursday evening, following the issuance of the notice by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves at an emergency press conference.

Jefron King, a farmer from Chateaubelair obeyed the evacuation notice just as he had done in 1979 during the last eruption, and travelled to the shelter at the Central Leeward Secondary School at Peter’s Hope.

Evacuated farmers worried about produce and livestock left behind
Residents of Chateaubelair who have evacuated to the Central Leeward Secondary School at Peter’s Hope

“I believe we will have about five to six explosions from what I hear, because they say the new dome grow around the old one and for it to get quiet, it will have to empty itself, otherwise it never come quiet,” he said of the 2021 eruption, as he sat at the tuckshop yesterday morning with several other Chateaubelair residents.

At least one other evacuee sitting close to him nodded and murmured in agreement.

King said this year’s eruption was different from one in 1979 because back then, it happened suddenly, whereas now, the country experienced effusive eruptions for months before it began exploding.

Because of this, he believes information is more readily available this time around than more than 40 years ago.

“We reach here the 13th April in ‘79 and we spend about three months before we go back because it wasn’t like now when the scientists could tell you this and tell you that. They was giving us some information, but not plenty,” he said.

The farmer also expressed his belief that “it will be a very, very hard setback for the farmers, especially in the zones where, like in the Leeward, Chateaubelair, Georgetown and everywhere people do a lot of farming and so”.

King told SEARCHLIGHT that he was particularly worried about his sheep that he had to leave behind; two tied and one roaming free.

Saboto Caesar, the agriculture minister was speaking at one of two emergency press conferences on Thursday when he explained four phases that will be executed by his ministry in the event of an explosive volcanic eruption.

Phase one has to do with the securing of public and private assets, which includes the tagging of farmers’ animals so that they are easily identified when the eruptions cease.

King said he had heard animals would be tagged, but that no one had come by the time the evacuation notice was issued on Thursday evening.

“If somebody could assist me, I say I will even go down and let them go and double back but I ain’t getting no transportation. I don’t know. I don’t know if they go dead,” he told SEARCHLIGHT. “It not easy for the farmers at this time eh. The farmers is who would feel this blow. It would give me a big setback. The government, I believe they will give some sort of assistance but it will be a big setback for us. I don’t know how long we have here.”

The Chateaubelair farmer said he also has young cucumbers and he believes the falling ash would burn the leaves.

But he also noted that the ash will help to make the soil fertile in the future.

King nodded pensively and expressed hope that it would rain after the eruption, to help wash the ash off of crops.

La Soufriere’s rumbles could be heard all across the country, and several persons have attested to feeling tremors as well.

Photos of the large ash plumes being ejected into the sky have also been making its rounds on social media and in regional news.

On Saturday morning, Vincentians woke up to a sea of white as ash covered every exposed external surface.

Arthur, another farmer from Chateaubelair did not expect La Soufriere would erupt on Friday, but in preparing for the imminent eruption, he travelled to Barrouallie to go to the bank.

When the volcano erupted yesterday, he had just exited the bank with a friend and saw the plumes towering over the mountain.

His thoughts lie with the three cattle – a cow and two calves — he left behind in the most northern town on the Leeward side of the island.

Like King, his animals had not been tagged, one was tied and two others roamed free.

He told SEARCHLIGHT he was very sad, not for his property but for his animals and provision, which could be worth thousands.

“Me ah pray for it cool down so me could get a ride go back down. Not today, you know, but later on… I sell one (cattle) at Christmas for $3500 to a fella from Rose Hall. I sell another one to a Grenadian, $2400,” the Chateaubelair farmer said.

He also plants pears, tania and eddoes.