Ms Riley's comments came in light of last Friday’s eruption of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ La Soufriere volcano which has displaced some 20,000 people of the island chain, and affected a number of nearby islands including Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada.
Hurricane-watchers at Colorado State University are predicting some 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes (category 3 or above). The annual average is 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
The CDEMA executive director told a media briefing at the agency’s Barbados headquarters, that a larger picture of the extent of the St. Vincent disaster is expected to emerge over the next few days as the regional disaster management agency responds to the continuing eruptions at the La Soufrière volcano.
She noted that as of Wednesday morning, 3,984 people were being housed in 87 public shelters and observed that so far, 2,048 people were staying with 446 families.
she added “The emergency operations centre is in the process of collating the statistics on those numbers and their geographical locations,” she said.
Over the past five days, Riley said, the agency had mobilised a “detailed damage sector assessment team” at the request of the St Vincent and the Grenadines government.
The team, she said, would help Vincentian authorities assess “where certain key sectors are at this stage”. The CDEMA team will be supported by other regional agencies, she added.
“This team is being led by the CDEMA coordinating unit and within four days we anticipate having a fairly consolidated picture with respect to the state of affairs and also to get a deeper understanding of the needs as they are evolving.
“In addition, the coordinating unit will be deploying its CARICOM Disaster Relief Unit (CDRU), a team which is coordinated through the Regional Security System (RSS), and will provide support in the relief management operations at the national level, principally at the seaport,” she said.
While praising those who have provided assistance so far, including individuals, the private sector, several governments and development partners, Riley warned against independent individuals trying to sail to the island to offer assistance, explaining that while the airport is closed the sea port’s capacity is limited at this time.
“We know you are well-intentioned but it can cause a level of congestion at the port and we don’t want this to happen,” said Riley, adding that the government there was encouraging bulk donation instead of items for specific individuals.
Pointing out that the needs could change over time as experts expect the eruptions to continue for days and even weeks, she explained that once the assessment was done, CDEMA would inform the public of the multi-island nation’s needs.
“I want to, however, urge you to coordinate with your national disaster offices. I am speaking to the public across the Caribbean. It is very important that you do this,” she said, adding that CDEMA was coordinating with its 18 member states in order to avoid added challenges.
“I know that there are many entities that are well-meaning, but please stay in touch with your national disaster offices and make sure that the work you are doing is consistent with the needs list that has been issued.
“We are discouraging unsolicited items from the needs list because we don’t want to create a secondary disaster by overloading the country with items that are not prioritized at this time,” she explained.
Stating that the St Vincent and the Grenadines government is encouraging financial donations at this time, Riley said those seeking to contribute financially could do so by visiting the CDEMA website to donate to the Barbados dollar and US currency accounts.
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