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The town of Chateaubelair, seen here in late May 2021. (iWN photo)

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The government will, over the next week or so, conduct the final large-scale removal of ash in Chateaubelair and Fitz Hughes, where the all-clear has been given for residents to return from July 23.

On April 8, hours before La Soufriere erupted explosively, the government ordered the evacuation of those communities as well as other sections of the Red and Orange Zones.

The all clear was given in June for reoccupation of the Orange Zone, except for Chateaubelair and Fitz Hughes, where removal of volcanic ash was yet to take place.

The all-clear for return to those north-western communities was given this week.

Speaking on NBC Radio on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that people have been returning to those communities and they are both almost completely clean.

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“They are working on the school now, the Golden Grove Playing Field; we discussed that yesterday. I called Lotto to coordinate because they have been running the field really with the Sports Council,” the prime minister said.

“But a lot of people have moved back down in Chato and many families have gone to Fitz Hughes as we have done the cleaning up and they have done the cleaning up.

“We will give the all-clear for those, officially on the 23rd. So there is a deadline working with that. So we expect that the number of the shelters will be reduced because of more persons in those areas going back when we give the all-clear.”

He said that in northeast St. Vincent, residents have returned to the Red Zone communities Orange Hill and Overland.

“We have the electricity available there. Water has gone back to Sandy Bay but we have to understand it is a makeshift system.  So we have to understand that if we have heavy rainfall and you are going to have mudflows coming down, they are going to get into the system, like last weekend with Elsa, they had to close it down.  So persons have to bear that in mind…”

The prime minister said that Garth Saunders, manager of the Central Water and Sewerage Authority has advised that the company is   trying to meet the deadline for the end of this month to bring the main Sandy Bay catchment back online.

“If he doesn’t meet it, we shouldn’t hang him for it because they are doing a tremendous amount of work and I want to praise the workers at CWSA, everybody; we have to spare a thought for them, more than a thought, because they put their lives at risk. So, too, VINLEC workers, and we have to thank them. They are doing a splendid job…” Gonsalves said.