The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Coordinating Unit said Tuesday that it had received funding from the United Kingdom to cover the cost of a helicopter to assist in monitoring St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ La Soufrière volcano which is erupting.
It said in a statement that the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) had provided £51,000 (US$69,679) through the Memorandum of Understanding on the UK Support for the CDEMA Response Teams programme.
The aircraft will be used to support access to sampling of the extrusive materials, airlifting equipment to the flanks of the volcano, surveillance/reconnaissance to analyse changes in the volcano and other relevant support to the monitoring of the volcanic activity. It will support the ongoing monitoring by The University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Centre’s (SRC) scientists on the ground.
There has been increased volcanic activity at La Soufrière since late last year, and an effusive eruption – in which lava oozes out onto the ground, unlike an explosive eruption which is characterized by magma being violently and rapidly expelled – has been confirmed at the site. The threat level for the volcano has therefore been elevated to orange, which means an eruption could occur with 24 hours.
The Barbados-based CDEMA said the request for a rotary aircraft was made by St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves through the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) in Kingstown.
“The Government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines are grateful to CDEMA and the UK Government for their kind assistance in organizing and financing the rotary helicopter service, which is necessary to facilitate the SRC and NEMO in conducting vital work in respect of the effusive volcanic eruption at La Soufriere in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said, as he also thanked CDEMA’s Acting Executive Director Liz Riley and the Coordinating Unit team, “who have been magnificent in coordinating the efforts”.
Riley, for her part, said the CDEMA Coordinating Unit team stands in solidarity with St. Vincent and the Grenadines and remains committed to providing additional support as this event unfolds.
Meantime, the United Kingdom’s Resident High Commissioner in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Steve Moore, said he was delighted that the UK FCDO was able to facilitate the request at short notice.
Professor Richard Robertson of the UWI-SRC indicated that the initial aircraft is required for a minimum of seven days, and subsequently on an as-needed basis by the scientists.
CDEMA said the support is extremely urgent to allow the scientists to analyse the data and present to the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines an informed interpretation of the current volcanic events.
The CDEMA Coordinating Unit is liaising with CalvinAir, a private helicopter company, based in Antigua and Barbuda, to provide these services.