The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) is still waiting to travel to St Vincent and the Grenadines following eruptions of the La Soufriere volcano since Friday.
One of the reasons local soldiers have not been deployed as yet is they have no face masks that are equipped to operate around an active volcano.
Members of the military therefore continue to wait for confirmation on when they will be deployed to help volcano-struck St Vincent.
The Sunday Express was informed by TTDF members that despite their willingness to provide assistance, they didn’t know when they would be deployed, as they were informed that respiratory masks and gear they have were not suitable for an environment filled with volcanic ash.
Additionally, a Defence Force source said such equipment would have to be found on the international market, and while this was being done with urgency, there was no information on when the said equipment would be provided and, as such, when the soldiers would be deployed.
This, the Sunday Express was told by sources, was of concern to members of the TTDF as this country is a significant contributor and participant in the Regional Security System (RSS).
Exact time to deploy being worked out
Minister of National Security Stuart Young, speaking to the Sunday Express yesterday, confirmed the TTDF did not have the necessary respiratory gear, but he noted this was not the reason why the military had yet to be deployed, nor will it prevent the officers from going to render assistance.
“The TTDF has not been deployed as yet because a final decision as to the exact time of deployment has not been taken as yet. We are preparing on many different fronts, including collating items and donations under (the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management).
“There are special respiratory masks for various different environments, and whilst we have masks for gases and other noxious substances, including chemicals, there was not a stock of those for a volcanic environment as we do not operate in a volcanic environment,” he said.
“In any event, the TTDF has put things in place to obtain these types of masks via a number of options, including the RSS. This will not prevent the TTDF from deploying to St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“As I have said repeatedly in the past, the safety of our men and women is paramount, and our personnel are trained to operate in various environments,” Young added.
On Friday morning, a C26 aircraft from the RSS took 75 cots from the T&T Air Guard’s Ulric Cross Air Station (UCAS) at Piarco to St Vincent, and in the afternoon, another flight was scheduled to return to collect 225 additional cots to be delivered to the island.