All eyes are on St Vincent as the La Soufriere Volcano is on the verge of erupting.
Regional governments have offered support and are already making arrangements to welcome some of those evacuated from the red zone, communities likely to be worst hit when the volcano erupts.
Nevis Premier Mark Brantley was among the first to offer words of support to St Vincent following Prime Minister Gonsalves’ announcement of the evacuation order on Thursday.
He told Loop Caribbean: “The situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines is worrying to us all. We are one Caribbean family and whenever a crisis hits any of us it affects all of us. The government and people of that great nation are in our prayers. We stand firmly with this in this time of difficulty.”
A similar sentiment was echoed by Anguilla’s Tourism Minister, Haydn Hughes.
He said much like they welcomed Montserratians when the volcano erupted in 1995, Anguilla is ready to offer accommodations to those affected by the possible volcanic eruption in St Vincent.
“What’s happening in St Vincent right now is a tragedy. It really brings up memories of what happened in 1995 in Montserrat,” he said.
“In 1995 the volcano in Montserrat erupted and the then Chief Minister of Anguilla, Hubert Hughes sent out a call to all Montserratians that they could relocate to Anguilla free of any immigration control and regulation and a number of Montserratians at that time took up that call and are now resident in Anguilla and have been for the last 20-plus years.
“Now that this volcano is erupting in St Vincent, as a member of the Cabinet of the Government of Anguilla, we too are making that call to the Government of St Vincent. We stand ready and willing to assist them and their citizens in any way possible, even as it relates to the possible relocation of their citizens to Anguilla.”
Meanwhile, Minister Charles Fernandes said the Government of Antigua and Barbuda is willing to accommodate 200 to 250 evacuees as soon as possible.
“The cabinet met with the various agencies to put something in place to ensure we will be able to do this,” Fernandes said.
Much like Anguilla, Fernandes said Antigua and Barbuda has had experience with situations like this before.
He told Loop Caribbean: “In 1995 the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has basically most of Montserrat positioned in Antigua and Barbuda and as recent as 2017 the Government of Antigua had to bring the entire population of Barbuda, which I think was just about 2000, to Antigua because of the devastation of the hurricane there at the time.”
While they’ve done this before, Fernandes noted that this time around they will be faced with a unique set of challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I can say though, that the government of Antigua and Barbuda responded very quickly and came to a decision where we have to help. Everything is being put in place to ensure that it is done in a proper manner,” he said.
He said the number of displaced people from St Vincent they can accommodate will depend on the availability of rooms in Antigua and Barbuda.
He added: “That is where we are now, we met with the National Office of Disaster Services, we met with Immigration and we met with the Health Authority to ensure we put everything in place to accommodate them because of course, it is even more challenging now because of the pandemic.
“The plan is that we are going to house them and feed them. There is a hotel property that is not being fully utilised now, actually part of it is being used to quarantine returning Antiguan nationals. The people coming from St Vincent will have to be quarantined anyway… the way the property is laid out they will not necessarily have to mix and mingle, there are different areas, several buildings on the property with different rooms. So we are now hustling to put everything in place as we are only using a small portion of it at present to quarantine returning nationals.”