Press conference re: COVID update and national cleanup efforts, hosted by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley at the Grantley Adams International Airport – April 15, 2021. (PMO)

Just as Barbados prepares annually for hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, a similar approach must be adopted for the impact of ash fall from the La Soufriere volcano, located in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley emphasised this point during a press conference this afternoon, held at the Grantley Adams International Airport, as she updated the country on the national clean-up of ash from roadways, public buildings and other places.

There have been several eruptions over the past few days, which have resulted in thick plumes of ash raining down on Barbados.

According to Prime Minister Mottley, this has served as a wakeup call and “there is a body of learning that we have now to embrace in this country both at the professional level, but equally at the level of households”.

She disclosed that her administration was working to develop a national plan in this regard, pointing out that based on the information from regional seismologists, “Barbados is at risk [of this kind of ash fall] always based on the structure of the La Soufriere volcano and the manner in which it explodes”. 

“Just as we’ve gotten in the drill every year to be able to prepare for the hurricane season…, we now have to have, as part of our psyche, the preparation of monitoring anytime La Soufriere is active. Not for the volcanic explosion that the Vincentians have regrettably had to put up with, and my heart bleeds for them…but we will equally not escape it, and to that extent, Barbados from the airport, seaport, utility companies, Government, everybody must have always prepared, a volcanic ash plan.

“I am happy that Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams has reached out to the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network. They are experts dealing with volcanoes, from the health issues right back to the substantive efforts of how we recover from this type of ash fall,” she revealed, noting that public education and sensitisation was paramount.

The Prime Minister further stated that she believed the reason why such action was not taken in the past was due to the fact that the 1979 La Soufriere eruption was “nowhere near as bad as this”.

“To that extent, I suspect, that is why even in the emergency planning in this country, it was never fully integrated,” she added.

The Prime Minister also said that Government would be working with the locally based Caribbean Institute of Meteorology on the measurement of ash fall recorded across the island.

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