St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves cried openly at a news conference, during which he updated citizens on the La Soufriere volcano which erupted twice yesterday.
Gonsalves first burst into tears when he was addressing the issue of members of the population who had already received their Covid-19 vaccination being moved by ship to other Caribbean islands while those waiting to be vaccinated being held for at least two days before being evacuated.
“I’ve spoken to one of the cruise line’s leadership this morning, and...,” Gonsalves said before his voice trailed off and he took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes.
“You know, I must tell you the way in which people in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and in ordinary people, and in Grenada and in Dominica, St Lucia and Antigua have responded to put people in their homes...strangers, bring tears to my eyes. I love this Caribbean,” he said.
Wiping his eyes again, the PM said he wanted to thank the minibus operators who had participated in moving people from their homes to shelters.
“I’m asking all of them to participate. I know your bus costs money and so on, and you’ll be paid, don’t worry about that. But I want you to help, and today, with the explosive eruption, I want you to help in moving the people, and persons who have private vehicles to help also,” he said.
He advised citizens if they go to a shelter, they may not end up there permanently because that might also be a clearing house for them to go to a hotel, guest house or maybe to go somewhere else.
He added that large numbers of people will still have to stay in the shelters, but the more they can get people who can go into homes, hotels and guest houses, whether there or outside of St Vincent, for those who may wish to go, they should do so.
“Why I’m anxious for that, this is not simply going to be like a hurricane where it might just be a seven-day business, in some cases, a two-day business. Prof Robertson (Richard) has indicated that depending on the extent of the explosion and the damage done, it could be for months.
“It is very touching that there are families in Antigua and Grenada and St Lucia and Dominica who are calling in and say that they will take people if need be into their homes,” Gonsalves said, before adding the proverbial saying, “Amazing, eh, on this dangerous road to Jericho, we have the good Samaritans”.
“I want us in the region to use natural disasters like this to strengthen the bonds of regionalism. It’s not that we’re not taking care of our own, clearly, we’re doing that, but it brings home that we’re one Caribbean family,” he said.
He also took the opportunity to express his gratitude to all those involved in the evacuation exercise.
“I want to thank the minibus operators. I want to thank the people who are working at the shelters, teachers, everybody who’s at Nemo (National Emergency Management Organisation), the nurses, all the health workers, everybody.
“Together, we will do this well (as his eyes welled up with tears once more). And don’t pay attention to the hiccups, and let us have no contention and confusion. The systems are working. We’ve had some hiccups here and there, which is understandable, and I had forewarned about that, but by and large, we are proceeding pretty well.
“And very much so, I want to ease the discomfort of having to leave your home and having to go to a shelter. You have to do it because it’s dangerous to stay in the Red Zone or in adjacent areas to the Red Zone.
“I’m sorry that I welled up with tears. I regret, not sorry, I regret I welled up in tears when I think about the goodness of the heart of our people and our Caribbean brothers and sisters,” Gonsalves said.