Fancy Government SChool, showing the main building and the detached washroom.

Residents of Fancy have used a volcano eruption sensitisation meeting to express concern about the condition of the state-owned emergency shelter in their village.

Fancy is the northernmost community in St. Vincent and is expected to be among the first to be impacted by an eruption of La Soufriere, an active volcano that sits on the northern third of St. Vincent.

The meeting, last Thursday, at the Fancy Government School, was organised by the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) to mark 40 years since the last eruption of La Soufriere volcano – April 13, 1979.  

The school has been listed as an emergency shelter for a number of years and residents have repeatedly expressed to NEMO concerns about its suitability for such a function.

“There is no structure in Fancy for disaster preparedness. If there is any disaster, one wind and it gone,” Pastor Ehud Myers said, as other villagers agreed, chorusing, “True!  True!”

Myers said he has heard NEMO say many times that the Apostolic Faith Mission, which he pastors, is an emergency shelter.

“… but I never got in contact with none — face to face —  of the persons because I want to find out something.  They put it (the church) as a disaster shelter, I never sign my name and say — I never give permission. Who’s responsible for the expense? Suppose children break a window, who’s going to buy them back?” Myers said.

One other person at the meeting said that he school cannot be an emergency shelter as the washroom facilities are detached from the main building.

“Take a look at the windows,” one person commented. 

It was noted that the government delivered new windows to the school over a year ago but is yet to have them installed.

One person suggested that the government build a new emergency shelter in the village, adding that the shelter should have a concrete roof, rather than the traditional galvanised sheets.

Residents also expressed concern about the dissemination of information.

They suggested that although Fancy has a good radio communication network, that information be also shared via St. Lucia’s radio stations, as they are accessible, and more frequently listened to than those in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Meanwhile, Jerwayne Laidlow, NEMO’s radio communications officer told the meeting that it would be best for them to set up a committee to establish rules and regulations to be observed if the church is used as an emergency shelter.

He also said that evacuees should obey these rules.

“There are regulations in place to actually charge people if they damage your property — NEMO has that legal right,” Laidlow said, adding that the church should have its own security if it is used as an emergency shelter.

In addition to the Fancy Government School and the Apostolic Faith Mission Church, NEMO, in 2018, also listed the Bethel Baptist Church as an emergency shelter in Fancy.

The meeting was organised in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, with support from the Soufriere Monitoring Unit and the UWI-SRC Volcano Ready Communities Project.

A similar meeting was held in Owia that day.

Eruptions of La Soufriere were also recorded in 1971-72, 1902-03, 1880, 1812, 1780, and 1718.

4 replies on “At volcano sensitisation, Fancy raises emergency shelter concerns”

  1. Alimantado Chatawa. says:

    Based on the time period of these eruptions..the average of the extrusive (violent) eruptions are about 66 years..The intermediate intrusive stages were averaging about 30 years. However the period after the last intrusive stage eruption to present is now going on for 49 years and therefore overdue or imminently close.
    Based on current Volcano and geological observations, the activities of the Montserrat and undersea volcano ‘Kick em Jenny’ seem to be contributing to pressure release hence the prolonged time period. However Montserrat is into its rest period and ‘Kick em Jenny’ due to being an undersea vent will erupt , form an island and settle down, causing the pressure to rebuild in La Soufriere.
    This should be of major concern to the relevant authorities for their preparations of evacuations. The next eruption based on relevant past recorded eruptions indicate that it will be an extrusive or violent one and we should not be too complacent about addressing it.
    The average lay person cannot connect these facts or see the trends in the analysis. Remember that the current lava plug in the crater is now a compact solidified dome capping the vent hence contributing to the pressure build up. When that eruption happens it will not be ash and cinder coming out of the crater but huge basaltic lava bombs followed by pyroclastic flows.
    This comment is not intended to alarm anyone, but to alert people of the inherent danger that will be posed to those communities living in the immediate proximity on both the windward and leeward coasts.
    NEMO should be aware of this and plan accordingly. Only timely evacuations will prevent the loss of life not sheltering in place.
    The expert volcanologists has classified our volcano as one of the most dangerous in the world based on its history and the size of its crater, and our people need to know this to plan properly.

    1. Annis Oatelia Creese says:

      Therefore, the shelter should not be in the same village as the volcano. It should be farther away. Isn’t there ashes as hot as to burn people alive?

  2. What kills the most people during an eruption is the deadly gas, such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, hydrochloric acid and carbon monoxidethere, is no protection from that anywhere in SVG. Large eruptions can release enormous amounts of gas in a short time.
    Gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, smell like eggs gone bad.

    The most abundant gas is water vapor (H2O), followed by carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Secondary gases are also commonly emitted from volcanoes and include hydrogen sulfide (H2S), hydrogen (H), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen chloride (HCl), hydrogen fluoride (HF), and helium (He). The greatest potential hazards to humans, animals and agriculture are SO2, CO2 and HF.

    Carbon dioxide gas is heavier than air, the gas may flow into villages, houses and buildings, it doesn’t go up it stays down and kills you.The concentration of carbon dioxide gas in volcanic areas can be lethal to people, animals, and vegetation. A few historic eruptions have released sufficient fluorine-compounds to deform or kill animals that grazed on vegetation coated with volcanic ash; fluorine compounds tend to become concentrated on fine-grained ash particles, which can be ingested by animals.

    So, even if you live, expect all your animals to die.

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