Local woman collecting supplies for her home island
Ongoing eruption on St. Vincent creates need for essentials
SARANAC LAKE — A local woman from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent is collecting essential supplies to be sent down to her home community after a volcano eruption has put the island and its population of 100,000 in danger.
The series of eruptions started on Friday, and the largest on Monday coated the island in ash and forced thousands to evacuate from their homes — including the family of Anna Barker, a North Country Community College graduate and nurse at the Sunmount facility for developmentally disabled people in Tupper Lake.
“As we speak it is erupting,” Barker said of the La Soufriere volcano. “Ash went all over the island, so no one is safe.”
This ash has contaminated food crops and water supplies. The government is drilling for water and neighboring islands are sending food supplies, but the need is great.
Electricity has been knocked offline. Shelters, now housing thousands, are running out of supplies.
Barker said her family is safe, staying with friends in a safe zone of the island. But their home on the north end is in a “red zone” — the region most in danger of pyroclastic lava flows, which destroys everything in its path. It’s also at risk for projectiles and mud flows. Her mother, brother and extended family don’t know if their houses are still standing.
She is getting updates from social media and news sites, but it is hard for her to see all this happening. She cries a lot.
“You’re here, you’re comfortable, but you grew up there. The pictures on Facebook are crazy devastating,” she said.
Barker also worries about the existential threat this poses to her home island. Volcanic eruptions can make islands uninhabitable if the eruptions last for weeks.
“I do not want my country to become like that,” she said.
Barker knew she had to do something.
She is collecting essential supplies to donate to the Vincy Strong Volcano Relief Drive, organized by a Brooklyn-based Caribbean culture group, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association.
Supplies needed include water, non-perishable food, toiletries, first aid kits, sanitizer and feminine products.
Barker did not know anyone who could help her organize, so she is running this donation effort out of her house. People can drop off supplies there.
Next week she’ll make the five-hour drive to New York City to bring supplies to the relief drive. Then the supplies will be shipped by boat to the island. Planes cannot currently land there.
Barker believes she’s the only person from St. Vincent living in the Saranac Lake area.
Barker moved to Saranac Lake four years ago to attend nursing school at NCCC and after graduating last year now works at Sunmount.
The volcano — La Soufriere — had been dormant but Barker said Tuesday, the fifth day of the eruption, marked the 42nd anniversary of the last time the volcano erupted in 1979.
The volcano also erupted in 1902 at a similar scale to now, and 1,600 were killed.
There have been no reported deaths or injuries from the current eruption, which launched plumes of ash 20,000 feet in the air. Barker said this ash was carried over to the neighboring island of Barbados.
“Ash has covered the island so much that when it’s bright daylight out it looks like it’s nighttime,” she said.
How to help
Anna Barker is collecting supplies at her home. To drop off supplies, call her at 347-562-3840 or call her mother-in-law Tina Thomas at 518-354-0622.