Vincentian artiste pooling resources to help home following La Soufrière eruptions.
By Stephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
In the wake of La Soufrière volcanic eruptions in St Vincent and the Grenadines, popular musician, singer- songwriter Skinny Fabulous has been pooling resources with other cultural ambassadors to aid the devastated island nation.
“It feels like a ‘pandemapocalypse’,” Skinny Fabulous told The Gleaner, explaining that having to deal with the global pandemic and now, a natural disaster is more catastrophe than one country can handle. “The situation here is as the Internet describes it. It is quite grim,” he said.
La Soufrière has been dormant since 1979; however, according to news reports, it began spewing smoke and actively rumbling in December 2020.
Though born and raised in the community of Lodge Village on the Leeward Coast of St Vincent, Skinny Fabulous, birth name Gamal Doyle, said the thought of a volcanic eruption ever happening in his homeland had never crossed his mind.
“You know the terminology, ‘out of sight, out of mind’, well, it’s almost as if it has been out of mind for quite a few years. The last eruption was 42 years ago, before I was even born. We’re seeing entire communities on the northern side of our island that have been destroyed. Our generation, we never think about that until it happened,” he said.
Skinny Fabulous calls the humanitarian crisis presented by the eruption the “most destructive” element of the experience. “The greater portion of this generation wouldn’t even have an idea what that experience was like, or what the ripple effects are, to have such a disaster happen. Most people think the most destructive part is the actual volcano erupting, but there is a humanitarian crisis that continues after,” he said.
Since the volcano had its first major eruption last Friday, April 9, the proclaimed Soca Monarch has been going into the streets of St Vincent, to the shelters and personally knocking on doors to offer relief and provide support, along with other artistes such as veteran performer Rondy ‘Luta’ McIntosh, renowned instrumentalist and steel pan expert Rodney Small and internationally acclaimed violinist Darron Andrews.
He said, “We are trying to work together to get the necessary supplies that our island needs here. It’s not a foundation as we are not registered, but I think the music industry – artistes and producers – in St Vincent is quite active. Our efforts to offer some relief started out with a few of us putting together resources out of pocket and as the word got out, more persons started to contribute.”
The volcano erupted again yesterday at approximately 6:30 a.m., he said, pointing out that if he were speaking with The Gleaner on Monday, “the conversation would have been, well, the volcano has quieted down, and we’re now in a process of recovery, but then it blew again, and so now, we are now concerned about respiratory issues, and the health issues as the ash fall creates problems for us as humans.”
The explosion on Tuesday morning reportedly sent another massive plume of ash into the air. It came on the anniversary of the 1979 eruption, the last one produced by the volcano until Friday morning.
It is hard to have a persistent message that covers all areas of concern Skinny Fabulous said, but at this time, he is urging Caribbean neighbours to assist in any way that they can.
“If you’re not in a position to physically contribute, keep us in your prayers. See how you can contribute to specific families, and there are also numerous organisations that can be reached. Persons within neighbouring islands can research the different shipping options. Most importantly, a simple thing as a phone call to friends and family that reside here, to find out how they are doing, can go a far way and means so much,” Skinny Fabulous said.
As it relates to his family, the artiste said that they were able to evacuate the red zone, where most of them reside, and some are currently taking shelter in his home on the southern end of the island.
“My family was able to heed the order to evacuate and were taken via ferry from the red zone to the green zones. We are a strong, resilient people, and for the most part, so our nation is keeping their spirits high,” he continued.
Omar Sow, CEO of Caribbean International, Inc, described Skinny Fabulous as “a great example of leadership in the community”.
“As a company, we have been fortunate to partner with Skinny Fabulous and his management team for an upcoming project scheduled for release later this year. It’s great because we have had a lot of discussions in the past that are finally coming to fruition,” he said.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Fortunately, as a beverage management company located in the heart of St Lucia, one of the most effective portfolio items has been bottled water, Sow explained. The company has partnered with Pyramid Entertainment, which manages the soca artiste to assist behind the scenes to direct donations towards the right entities and is working on sending pallets of water through its distribution partners from the port in Miami to St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“It’s crucial for Caribbean International’s customer base to know we are here to support them during times of need. On a personal level, I have a lot of friends from St Vincent and the Grenadines that have been updating me on the status of the situation in real time. We will do everything we can to help,” Sow told The Gleaner.
“Any corporate entities interested in assisting, sending essential materials, or needing information on how to get materials into the country at this time (SVG airport is currently closed) can contact us immediately for shipping and logistical information and updates. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Stay strong. The entire Caribbean is behind you,” he said.
Leaders of St Vincent and the Grenadines said Tuesday that water is running short as heavy ash contaminates supplies, and they estimated that the eastern Caribbean island will need hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from the eruption of La Soufrière.
Between 16,000 to 20,000 people have been evacuated from the island’s northern region, where the exploding volcano is located, with more than 3,000 of them staying at more than 80 government shelters.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said in a press conference on local station NBC Radio that St Vincent will need hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from the eruption.
Falling ash and pyroclastic flows have destroyed crops and contaminated water reservoirs. Garth Saunders, minister of the island’s water and sewer authority, noting that some communities have not yet received water.
“The windward (eastern) coast is our biggest challenge today,” he said during the press conference of efforts to deploy water trucks. “What we are providing is a finite amount. We will run out at some point.”
The prime minister said people in some shelters need food and water, and he thanked neighbouring nations for shipments of items, including cots, respiratory masks and water bottles and tanks.