Ottawa residents worry for family in St. Vincent after volcanic eruption
OTTAWA -- There is growing concern for an island nation battling the aftermath of a volcanic eruption that could strike again.
Nearly 20,000 people have evacuated Saint Vincent and they don’t know when they will be able to return home.
Volcanic smoke and ash is blanketing the entire island after La Soufriere Volcano erupted on Friday.
Delon Young is originally from Saint Vincent. Most of his family still lives there, including his father.
“I spoke to my dad this morning and he’s held up at one of the schools in Kingstown. He seems to be in good spirits. He says that they’re well taken care of for now so I think everybody is a little bit relieved. The stress factor is not as much because they are away from harm.”
Young says he is in constant contact with relatives, making sure that they are safe. He says what has happened is devastating.
“I don’t think anyone expects to go back to their homes for weeks,” says Young.
Maxine Grant moved to Canada from Saint Vincent in 1989. She is also the former president of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Ottawa.
“I am originally from the red zone,” says Grant. “I have family and friends there. Some of them were in the orange and red zones.”
The island went through the same thing 42 years ago.
“I was there when it erupted in 1979,” says Grant. “I was only nine years old when it happened.”
Grant says she doesn’t remember it being as bad as this time, but it was still scary for a child to witness the natural disaster.
“We didn’t have that much preparedness. We were sleeping, it was a Good Friday, and we were awakened by a loud noise on our door. Banging to wake us up. And then, when we got out, we saw the massive crowd of people just screaming,” says Grant.
Usually a beautiful green, lush island, Saint Vincent now looks like it is covered in what locals are calling 'Caribbean snow.'
The ash from the volcano is grounding flights and it can be seen as far away as Barbados, more than 150 km away.
“I am scared,” says one local Vincentian. “I’m just hoping for the best so that everything can be over so that I can go back home.”
“I’m not feeling fully comfortable,” says another local. “Just a little discomfort because my family is behind and they are living in the red-zone area.”
With dangerous ash and gases in the air, displaced families could be out of their homes for weeks or even months before it subsides.
“It’s very serious. It’s chaotic. It’s nerve wracking,” says Grant. “It’s dangerous and it’s devastating to the county.”
Young adds, “I just hope that it’s not something that we’re still talking about two months from now.”