PERSONS LIVING in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are being asked to be vigilant as the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season unfolds.
The effects of heavy rainfall are expected to be worse for SVG in 2021 as the explosive eruptions of the La Soufriere volcano which began on April 9 and ran through until April 22, have dumped tons of ash on the country.
Scientists say that heavy rain added to ash on hillsides can result in lahars, a violent type of mudflow or debris flow composed of a slurry of pyroclastic material, rocky debris and water. The material flows down from a volcano, typically along a river valley.
Apart from the volcanic eruption, the country is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and a dengue fever outbreak.
On Tuesday, Acting Prime Minister, Montgomery Daniel, said although the volcano has remained relatively quiet, residents must maintain their vigilance in the monitoring of the volcano, in addition to preparing for any impact of a storm or hurricane.
“Equally, we have also been seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases which has implications for preparedness during this 2021 hurricane season,” Daniel said.
He noted that in 2020, the Atlantic Hurricane Season was the most active season on record producing 30 named storms that caused billions of dollars in damage worldwide.
And, while not being directly affected in 2020, SVG experienced heavy rainfall which caused a lot of damage through flooding and landslides, with approximately 200 homes damaged, Daniel pointed out.
He said that the 2021 season has been predicted to be an above average season and there should be no lapse by the population in their preparations.
“We have faced a year of cascading hazards, from COVID-19 pandemic to the current response, and impacts from the recent volcanic eruptions which make preparation for this hurricane season extremely critical,” Daniel stressed.
He said the recent eruptions have made communities and families, as well as the economy more vulnerable through heavy ash fall, pyroclastic flows and lahars that have devastated homes and livelihoods.
“Nevertheless we must continue in earnest with our preparations for this hurricane season,” Daniel noted while encouraging persons to look at the condition of their homes.
“Many of our roofs will still be covered with ash, and when we check our roofs, please ensure the ash is removed, as when it rains, the ash when mixed with water becomes heavier and can cause our roofs to collapse,” Daniel advised.
He said also that flooding is one of the more prevalent hazards that occur during heavy rainfall and people must take necessary precautions.
“We must establish a plan for possible disruption in the water supply… you can have disruption of our water supply to our homes and you may need to store adequate amounts of water for your family that can last approximately one week.
“You would have to look at cleaning drains in and around home and community as to avoid flooding and damage to your home and infrastructure,” the Acting PM said.
He added that people not throw ash in the drains when they clean their surroundings since this can lead to blockage that leads to flooding.
And he used the opportunity to urge the population to continue to observe the COVID-19 protocols.
“We must continue to protect ourselves and our families during this difficult time,” Daniel stressed.
“I want to advise that we listen to all alerts from the SVG Met Services and follow the instructions given by NEMO as we heighten our awareness for an active hurricane season, let us all be ready, make the necessary household preparations of water, food, checking of our homes, the roofs, the building and making your family an emergency plan,” Daniel encouraged.
Director of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) Michelle Forbes, was also in attendance at the Cabinet Room briefing.