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Vincentians suffering as water supplies dwindle – Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


BUCKETS IN HAND: Vincentians in Edinboro wait with buckets in hand to get water from a truck as the country grabbles with dwindling water supplies due to contamination of the water courses and water treatment plants by ash-fall caused by the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano. PHOTO BY STEPHON NICHOLAS - Stephon Nicholas
BUCKETS IN HAND: Vincentians in Edinboro wait with buckets in hand to get water from a truck as the country grabbles with dwindling water supplies due to contamination of the water courses and water treatment plants by ash-fall caused by the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano. PHOTO BY STEPHON NICHOLAS – Stephon Nicholas

THE water crisis in St Vincent is reaching a level where some people are struggling to get potable water to cook with and drink.

The island’s water management authority is trying to cope with the fallout of the La Soufriere volcano eruption which covered all of the island with volcanic ash, including its watercourses and water-treatment plants.

Dangerous pyroclastic flow, toxic fumes and incessant ash-fall have killed crops and animals, destroyed houses and other infrastructure and contaminated the water supply.

The water supply dipped to ten per cent, resulting in the Central Water and Sewerage Authority deciding to ration the small supply sourced from underground wells. At the side of the road at Edinboro, Vincentians gathered on Wednesday with their buckets to get water from a truck-borne supply.

Even in the capital of Kingstown, 20 kilometres south of the volcano, in the relatively safe green zone, ash remains a huge problem.

Walking outside is like taking a stroll along a beach, as thick ash carpets the ground. Walking on tiles is a huge risk, as the ash makes them slippery.

Two eruptions on Tuesday – the latest around 11 pm – left the aroma of sulphur in the air in Kingstown and the sky looking gloomy as ash and clouds hung over the capital – a reminder that the volcano, hiding over the mountains, was still rumbling.

Another eruption on Wednesday at 11.30 am had tour operator Kwesi Lockhart begging for rain to wash the ash from the sky.

The ash and cloud cover were an unbearable combination as it brought intense heat and made staying outdoors extremely uncomfortable.

The National Emergency Management Office advised the public to wear masks at all times outdoors, as continuously breathing the ash could cause respiratory problems. Some Vincentians sought extra protection by wearing goggles as well.

But residents are left in a conundrum, since staying indoors offers no respite if air conditioning is not an option.

Lockhart said, “It’s really frustrating, especially where I’m living (in the green zone). People who have asthma find it difficult to breathe because you have to be always inside, especially when the ash is heavy.”

He noted though that the heat from closing all windows and doors makes indoors feel like an oven, and the ash also negatively affects air conditioning units.

Businessman Marlon Llewellyn, owner of Bully’s restaurant and bar in Kingstown, said water remains a huge challenge for him and sales have dipped since the volcano exploded, but he’s “just trying to get by, day by day.” Llewellyn, who has a daughter who has respiratory problems, thanked TT for the aid to his country.

“I saw a bit on Facebook and I see Bunji Garlin send up some water. Them Trinidad artistes does come here and make a lil money too. It’s good that they looking out for the country and sending something, because if it was vice versa we would have helped Trinidad too. I wunna say thanks on behalf of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

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