A volcanic eruption has devastated the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. La Soufriere, a 4,000-foot-high volcano, began smoking and rumbling in December after more than 40 years silence. It blew on April 9, the first time since 1718, and has kept going.
Falling ash and rock have covered villages. Roads have become footpaths. More than 20,000 people have fled the north and middle of the island, where the most ash fell and it continues to come. Rain has made the ash that much more difficult to remove. The island, the BBC reports, is blanketed with a layer of gray falling like snow. There have been no immediate deaths, but with electricity and water supplies interrupted, many fear an outbreak of illness with potentially fatal results.
The United Nations has made a global appeal for donations to help provide clean water and aid the recovery. Its budget? Just $29.2 million, about what a single oceanfront house might cost on the East End these days.
You probably would not know about La Soufriere with the pandemic keeping our attention close to home. I only happened onto the crisis while listening to a sailing podcast this week. The guest, a Chicago firefighter and recent convert to sailing, described learning that thousands of people on St. Vincent were without lighting at night. Eager to help, he is organizing a kind of humanitarian flotilla, calling on recreational boaters cruising the southern Caribbean to carry small solar-powered LED units through a partnership with an organization called Watts of Love. The lights cost $50 each, and can run at low power for 120 hours on a single day’s charging in the sun.
Close to one billion people live without electricity, Watts of Love reports, and many of them turn to kerosene lamps after the sun goes gone. This put some unknown millions of people around the world at risk of fire and health effects, including long-term breathing and nervous system issues.
I made a donation soon after I heard the pitch. Perhaps you would consider doing so, too.