Grantley Adams airport in Barbados, which has been closed following the eruption of La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent, will remain closed until a major cleanup of runways, roads, approaches and terminals has been cleaned of the layers of ash fall and dust to create a dust-free zone around the airport, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said during a televised press conference late Thursday.
"The airport must open up," Mottley said. "We can no longer continue like this. I am hoping that we can reopen by early next week, but we are at the mercy of the winds blowing the dust and ash from St. Vincent during eruptions."
Reports from the Seismic Research Center on St. Vincent indicate that the regularity and strength of eruptions have decreased, "so we have a limited respite and are in a position to ramp up with our cleanup at the airport and all over Barbados," Mottley said.
Another eruption took place Thursday morning. "It was smaller, and the winds blew west, not east toward Barbados," according to the prime minister.
"From roofs to reefs, Barbados has been severely impacted by La Soufriere," she said. "I have mobilized a nationwide cleanup to begin. We are bringing in 1,500 additional workers to supplement our cleanup crews here. Barbados has 960 miles of roads, and they must be cleaned and made safe to drive on."
With the start of hurricane season just six weeks away, on June 1, "we must clear the roads so the ash does not go down drains and clog them because the chances of flooding during a big storm increase."
The eruption of La Soufriere "has shown us once again how vulnerable we are to natural disasters, not just from hurricanes, floods and sargassum but now volcanoes."
The volcano on St. Vincent last erupted in 1979, but it was a much smaller event and did not severely impact Barbados.