Church donates water and food, sets up portable toilets and showers for St. Vincent volcano evacuees

Water, hygiene kits, portable toilets and showers along with food hampers have been donated by the Church to help La Soufrière volcano evacuees on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent as volcanic activity continues to cover the island in ash. 

“The humanitarian actions include a donation of US $11,000 to Salvation Army to help distribute food and water, and 450 cases of water were delivered to the National Emergency Management Organization,” Josue Vanderhorst, self-reliance and welfare manager of the Church in the Caribbean Area, said in an update on the Church’s Jamaica Newsroom on Friday, April 16. “A shipment of 1,000 hygiene kits is being organized and will be delivered this week and next.” 

Church members on the island have put together about 350 food hampers and donated them to the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines National Emergency Management Organization for those staying in shelters, those in the community and Church members, according to the Jamaica Newsroom update.   

La Soufrière volcano erupted again on Friday, April 16. Although it wasn’t as big as the blasts earlier in the week, it did spew more ash an estimated 8,000 meters, or 26,000 feet, the Associated Press reported.   

Among the 20,000 people who have evacuated from the La Soufriere volcano are 44 members of the Church who are taking refuge in a meetinghouse in Kingstown on the southern end of the island, according to the Jamaica Newsroom.

The meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kingstown opened April 12, as a shelter for those evacuating from the La Soufriere volcano in the north, Jamaica Newsroom reported. On April 16, portable toilets and showers were installed around the Kingstown chapel for the nearly four dozen people sheltering there.  

Local Church leaders are helping to provide food and water for those sheltering at the Kingstown meetinghouse and are working with officials to help provide supplies for other evacuees. As of April 12, there were 85 active shelters on the island.

Plumes of ash rise from the La Soufriere volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Friday, April 16, 2021. An 1812 eruption killed dozens, mostly enslaved Black people. Prior to this month, the last big eruption was during Easter 1979, causing mass evacuations but no deaths.
Plumes of ash rise from the La Soufriere volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Friday, April 16, 2021. An 1812 eruption killed dozens, mostly enslaved Black people. Prior to this month, the last big eruption was during Easter 1979, causing mass evacuations but no deaths. Credit: Vincie Richie, The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre via Associated Press

Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves declared a disaster on April 8, and the volcano erupted on April 9, in the first of several major explosions. The latest of which was April 13, the Associated Press reported. As of Monday, April 19, there were no reports of injuries or deaths. 

The La Soufriere volcano eruption on April 12 sent ash and hot gasses into the air, and pyroclastic flows down the volcano’s south and southwest flanks destroying homes, crops and other vegetation, according to the Associated Press reports. The ash from the explosions has been falling on Barbados and other neighboring West Indies islands. The April 13 eruption of another plume of ash is on the anniversary of the volcano’s last eruption in 1979, noted the Associated Press.

Officials said April 13 that the ash and pyroclastic flows have contaminated water reservoirs, according to Associated Press reports.

Three thousand of the 16,000 to 20,000 people who evacuated from the near the volcano are in the 80-plus shelters on the island.

“The 44 members in the meetinghouse are well. There are additional Latter-day Saints with family members and friends in surrounding homes in Kingstown, which is still classified as a safe zone. We met with sisters on site in the meetinghouse. They are showing faith and strength,” said Barbados Bridgetown Mission President Alan L. Fisher in an update on the Jamaica Newsroom.

Those at the shelter are working to use resources wisely, including water, President Fisher added. Also, the group has an evening devotional.

On April 9, the Jamaica Newsroom initially reported 15 families were taking shelter in the Kingstown chapel. 

“Local leaders of the Church are leading the efforts to safeguard members in coordination with authorities in the affected communities. Generators have been purchased to secure power in the Church building as it is being used as a shelter with capacity for 50 people. We want to help in any way we can because that is what Jesus Christ would do if He were here,” Vanderhorst told the Jamaica Newsroom.  

About 50 families who live on the island are members of the Church and they had been preparing for a possible eruption. Area Church leaders had been readying humanitarian services. 

There are 716 members of the Church on St. Vincent and three congregations. There are currently no full-time missionaries living in St. Vincent.