Lloyd Lynch, the lead scientist currently monitoring La Soufriere volcano said that he was not trying to sully any individual or department when he spoke on certain issues two days before.
“Let me take the opportunity to publicly apologise if I said something that insinuated that…” Lynch said on NBC Radio’s ‘Eyeing La Soufriere’ program on Wednesday, two days after he appeared on the same program and commented that he was awaiting permission to put volcanic monitoring equipment at three new sites.
On Monday, Lynch appeared on ‘Eyeing La Soufriere’ to give an update on volcanic activity when he was joined by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and mentioned that he was still awaiting permission from the relevant authorities to set up new sites to properly monitor activity at the volcano.
He also mentioned that there is a need for a lahar monitoring set-up which is different from the equipment used to monitor seismic activity, but he was having some issues with site approval for what they were trying to currently achieve.
“Take for example, we need to get some monitoring instruments, more monitoring instruments out into the at risk community and you can’t just take the instruments and put them down anywhere, you need to get proper site permits and this sometimes can be very lengthy,” Lynch said on Monday.
“I have been here now for two weeks going on for three weeks, and looking for permission to put stations on three sites; one in upper Wallilabou, one in an area we call Greiggs Mountain, which is west of Greiggs; and another site up at Fitz Hughes, and we still cannot get permission as yet.
“So you have these impediments…” Lynch said before being cut off by Gonsalves who said this was the first time he was hearing about the issue.
“But Lloyd, I don’t know who you are seeking to get the permission from, because it is the first time I know that you all are seeking this permission because the Minister of Land and Physical Planning happens to be the Acting Prime Minister at the moment and land Surveys is under him.”
Montgomery Daniel has been carrying out the duties of Prime Minister in the absence of Gonsalves who has been in Cuba with his wife for medical reasons.
The PM added that ifthere’s bureaucratic impediment, the political directorate doesn’t know about it.
“Certainly, I don’t know about it, and I am the minister responsible for disaster preparedness, and I talked to Michelle Forbes down to day before yesterday, who heads NEMO, and nobody told me about it.
“So the point about it is this, there might be a request, Lloyd, but if the request is not, I don’t know where it is made, I don’t know where it is made, so I am hoping that the various agencies, the Chief Surveyor’s office, NEMO, Physical Planning, the various agencies, and this is a matter which I will certainly follow up on now that you have raised it, but this is the first time anybody tell me about that,” Gonsalves pointed out.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said he knows about a request for a helicopter to survey La Soufrière and other places, and that has already been moved on.
“With great respect, that is, if the Observatory and the Seismic Research Unit do it in the bureaucratic manner, the policymakers need to know.”
Lynch told Gonsalves that the request was communicated to the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and NEMO is said to be working on it.
“… I don’t know about it…all it will do is to take one telephone call from me to the relevant persons.
“But these are things which will have to be moved with rapidity and not in a bureaucratic manner. I will tell you something, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in this regard, is far more nimble than any other country that I know in the Caribbean, because the political directorate gets very active on these matters you know, so I want to make that point,” Gonsalves said.
Lynch then suggested a taskforce to fast track matters of this nature to which the PM responded, “…with respect Lloyd, with respect, the first thing that you need to do is to get… a consultant putting together with everybody concerned a capital project and let us find out what is the cost, with the various agencies, which I was talking to you about,” to which Lynch responded that he had seen an email over the weekend which indicates that this may be happening.
“That is good news, but at the level of the policy making, we are very, very active on these things and I am going to call NEMO to find out where there is any blockage, bureaucratically that is…” Gonsalves said while noting that he regrets any bureaucratic issues.
On Wednesday while interacting with Acting Prime Minister Daniel on radio, Lynch said he received a call from Stacy Edwards, the person responsible for education and outreach at the SRC-UWI and she told him what she heard, “is that somebody is not doing their job…”
“I had no intention of sullying any individuals or departments, but the reality is that on Monday I said that I was on the ground going on two three weeks, and not been able to put instrument in the ground”, Lynch said.
“It is not because people are not doing their jobs; on the contrary, I think it is because people are doing their jobs,” Lynch added, noting that he had to quarantine for 10 days when he arrived here because of the COVID-19 protocols, so that shows the Ministry of Health is doing its job.
He said back in January when they came to St. Vincent, they managed to put in five new stations in a space of a month, but that was because these installations were at sites that already had permission and were established.
“But this time we are putting installations in five new sites. In January, Trinidad and Tobago was lock down because of COVID, so we were able to start working…this time around it is totally different. The level of COVID in Trinidad from which we came is much higher and we had to stay in quarantine,” the UWI seismic official pointed out.
“I had to stay for 10 days with a number of tests before I was unleashed on the population…so the Ministry of Health is doing their job, and since I got out, we have been doing site surveys to get the best sites, and shopping around for hardware to do the installations and it is a process that involves visiting several locations, so it takes time,” Lynch added.
He said he has interacted with NEMO and persons from the Surveys Department “…and these are highly professional people. The fact that we have been able to put in five stations so quickly in January is testament of the professionalism that can be expected.”
Lynch added further that “over the last week, it is not that we have not been able to do anything, we got no instrument in ground, but we were configuring instruments and looking at restoring the Owia site”.
He said they have already received permission from the Richmond Vale Academy to set up shop and they are hoping to set up at the Fitz Hughes site once they get permission.
He revealed that Rudy’s Electrical Company will dig holes for the instruments as they have to go 20 feet into the ground.
“Things are slowly falling into place. It is a process, and one do expect delays at times, and when you get delays, it is not intentional,” he concluded.