President Ali leading relief response for St Vincent
– Items to leave Guyana within 48 hours
His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali this afternoon underscored the importance of getting emergency items, including water and food, over to St Vincent and the Grenadines in the fastest possible time.
He told members of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and the Private Sector Commission, who are coordinating an emergency response, that given the urgency in the sister CARICOM nation, supplies from Guyana must set sail within 48 hours.
The President disclosed that the needs of the islands have multiplied over the last 24 hours since the eruption of the Soufrière volcano yesterday.
The President added that Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, who was also at the meeting, was in contact with the honorary consulate in relation to Guyanese on the islands.
“We’ve been fairly comforted that the Guyanese there are taken care of. There is no request on movement or anything.”
Along with the emergency response, the Head of State pointed out that the army is on standby in case they are needed on the ground in the aftermath of the eruption.
The President said that he has been in constant contact with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and has offered Guyana’s full support.
He said that Prime Minister Gonsalves informed him that the needs of the islands have increased significantly.
“The situation has changed drastically overnight, and indeed what was urgent is now extremely urgent.”
The two leaders are expected to speak again tonight.
Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips, who was also at the meeting, is expected to meet the CDC (the central coordinating agency of the response), again tomorrow to evaluate the progress.
Up to this afternoon, the Private Sector Commission had raised several million in cash commitments and much-needed items.
President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), Rafeek Khan also indicated to the Head of State that the association has secured financial commitments.
Director-General of the CDC, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, added that the Commission will be working around the clock to acquire the needed items.
So far, commitments have already been made to supply drinking water, personal protective equipment, hygiene and sanitation supplies, water tanks and shelter supplies.
“Banks DIH has donated water (5-gallon bottles to fill a 20-foot container), John Fernandes Limited has donated a 20ft container and a 40ft container (to ship items to St. Vincent), and Gaico Construction and General Services has pledged two charter flights to the CARICOM island,” Craig noted.
DDL and several other big companies have also committed to donating items.
GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION
President Ali noted that he understands the gravity of the situation, especially since residents have been forced to move out of their homes and are constantly being pushed further and further away due to the severity of the volcanic eruption.
The President said that he has also been in contact with Barbados and neighbouring islands since they could also be affected. At the meeting at State House, the Government officials, including the President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister, were joined by several members of the Private Sector Commission, the CDC, Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Godfrey Bess and Major General (Ret’d) Norman McLean, among others.