THE threat of the La Soufriere volcano as well as ensuing economic uncertainty in St Vincent has seen many Trinis living and working in that country try to take advantage of Wednesday evening's repatriation sailing of the MV Galleons Passage back to Port of Spain.
The vessel arrived in St Vincent on Tuesday afternoon laden with humanitarian aid as the Trinidad and Tobago Government responded to the emerging crisis after the volcano exploded last week Friday, for the first time in 42 years.
The volcano erupted twice on Tuesday, with pyroclastic flow threatening villages to the northeast of the island. Prime Minister Gonsalves on Wednesday appealed for people still in the red zone to get out while they still can. There was another eruption around 11.30 am on Wednesday.
The TT Ministry of National Security sought to achieve two objectives on its humanitarian mission: sending military personnel to assist St Vincent's security forces and also to arrange for TT citizens trapped on the island to return home.
On Wednesday afternoon, Newsday was told the requirement of a travel exemption had been waived and the process was open to anyone who has a TT passport and wishes to return home. Vincentians who had been granted exemptions were also allowed to apply to board the MV Galleons Passage.
At the Cruise Ship Complex in Kingstown – St Vincent's capital – TT immigration officials, who came to St Vincent on board the Galleons Passage, were working alongside their Vincentian counterparts.
Because of the limited capacity of the ferry and the need to observe covid19 protocols, there would not be room for further applicants.
A TT construction worker, who wished to remain anonymous, lined up on Wednesday to be interviewed by immigration officials, hoping he could get a boarding pass. Based in St Vincent for six months, he said the disruption caused by the volcanic eruption has affected his employment. He was working in the orange zone.
Vincentian Tyrone Jack said he was hoping to get aboard, as his children are in TT. "I have a family there," Jack said. "It's been 20 months I don't see my kids. Normally I work on the cruise ship, so I spend one year on the cruise ship. I did an exemption in January and Sunday, they approved it. That's why they tell me to contact to go down to Trinidad."
Jack said he was delighted to learn a TT ship was coming to the island. "When I see that news on the boat coming down, I said, 'God have to help me get on that ship.' This morning I woke up and saw that e-mail and was happy."
Also trying to get on the boat was a minor who is a TT citizen. Two relatives accompanying him told Newsday the boy's mother is in Trinidad and awaiting his return. However, the boy would be travelling alone.
On Tuesday St Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told media although there were agreements with several regional countries to accept Vincentians who wished to evacuate, most preferred to stay and help rebuild the island.