St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is again urging relatives in the region and abroad to send money instead of small packages to their loved ones impacted by the La Soufriere Volcano eruption, as packages are clogging the island’s sea port.
“Yesterday, one of my staff told me that somebody sent some things from Trinidad, some small package on some vessel which came up, and apparently it hasn’t been cleared yet and they are calling the office from Trinidad to complain that it’s three days or so and it isn’t cleared yet,” he said yesterday on NBC Radio St Vincent and the Grenadines
“Well, that is precisely the point I was making all along. There are a lot of central supplies that have come which need urgently to be cleared to help to assist all the people in the shelters, which is 7,000 now, and just under 7,000 in private homes…” he added.
Gonsalves again stressed that after every natural disaster in the region, there is a backlog of goods to be cleared at the port.
He said the most sensible thing for relatives to do is send money to their loved ones.
“And this is not Ralph Gonsalves talking, this is the sensible advice from those in CDEMA (Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency) and NEMO (National Emergency Management Organisation), people who are involved in natural disasters, including people who have advised from other countries,” Gonsalves stated.
He went on: “And I don’t want anybody to be texting me to tell me somebody sent a package to them and they didn’t get it in two to three days’ time because I’m not going to check at Customs for it. I am not a Customs broker. I want to be very clear on this. By all means if you want to send it, perfectly in order, but I’m telling you what is the preference.”
He said some people are creating the impression that there was no food in supermarkets on the island and no crops on the land, but this was not true.
Acknowledging the long lines outside money transfer locations around the island, Gonsalves said efforts are being made to make more locations available to Vincentians receiving money from abroad.
After a two-week shut-down due to heavy ashfall from the La Soufriere eruption on April 9, Argyle International Airport (AIA) in St Vincent returns to full operation today.
According to Gonsalves, an American Airlines flight is expected to land at the airport today.
He said the airport’s cargo terminal reopened yesterday morning to allow cargo that was sent pre-eruption to be cleared.
In a news release yesterday, AIA chief executive officer Corsel Robertson cautioned that cleaning will be ongoing at the airport, as ash persists in the atmosphere and is continuously redeposited on the ground.
Robertson said on Bequia in the Grenadines, JF Mitchell Airport remains open under special conditions, due to terminal building repair work in progress.
She said the Canouan, Union Island and Mustique airports remain operational from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Aid from Korea
And humanitarian aid continued to come in for St Vincent and the Grenadines yesterday.
In a statement, the Korean Embassy in Port of Spain announced that the government of Korea has donated US$100,000 to support relief and recovery efforts on the island.
It said the donation was provided through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)–a regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management.
“The Korean government stands in solidarity with the government and the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines during this difficult time and hopes that its assistance will help bring rapid relief to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” the Korean Embassy stated.