The Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) has launched a collection drive following Friday’s eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
TEMA director Allan Stewart told Newsday the agency began collecting items on Saturday but the drive will begin in earnest on Monday.
“It will roll out on Monday with the necessary advertisements but we have started through Face book and social media to encourage people to drop off items.”
He said items could be dropped off at Fairfield Complex, Scarborough.
Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis urged Tobagonians to give generously to the initiative.
He said his thoughts and prayers are with the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“The Prime Minister has committed this country to assist, as is customary. We are always willing to assist our Caribbean brothers and sisters in times of great challenges and uncertainty.”
As the island grapples with the effects of the volcanic eruptions, Stewart urged Vincentians to be patient with the relief agencies that are being mobilised throughout the region to render assistance.
“They have to be very patient with the authorities because you could be blindsided by not seeing the whole picture even if you in it. It is just like being without electricity of Internet connectivity.
“Sometimes the people on the outside are seeing more than you are seeing even though you are in the middle of it. So, they have to trust the authorities.”
Acknowledging patience will run out, particularly for those who are in shelters, Stewart said: “They must rely on the guidance and some of the science coming out of the whole thing.”
For example, Stewart said there are properties within the ash that can cause long term health issues, especially for people already suffering with respiratory illnesses.
“There is a gas that comes out of it, sulphur dioxide, and, therefore, they have to pay attention to those things.”
He said unless it is necessary, people should venture outdoors.
“So, I can see it (volcano) affecting their way of life in terms of work that comprise of activities on the outside.”
Stewart said while there may be a red zone (those living in the vicinity of the volcano) and an orange zone, “people who are south of the island may feel they are excused and they can go about business as usual.”
He said if people are outside they must be properly masked at all times because the air quality will continue to deteriorate.
“So, the exercise of patience is very important during this period with the assurance that the rest of the Caribbean is behind them and will provide the necessary aid as they go along.”
Saying the first 72 hours will be the most critical, Stewart said an assessment of damage to property must be conducted.
He said security teams entering the volcano-hit regions of the island must be vigilant.
“Their PPE’s (personal protective equipment) have to be properly maintained because in order to create the kind of corridor of security for these properties just outside of the red zone and the orange zone, it means, therefore, that they themselves have to expose themselves to some degree to ensure that looting does not take place.”
Stewart said relief initiatives must be sustained for as long as possible.