The humanitarian crisis caused by volcanic eruptions on the Caribbean island of St Vincent will last for months, a UN official has warned.
Didier Trebucq, the UN co-ordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean said nearby islands including Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda could also be badly affected.
About 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since La Soufrière volcano began erupting last Friday
Mr Trebucq said clouds of ash and smoke were continuing to pour from the volcano every day.
“We are expecting that continuous explosions and ash fall will continue over the coming weeks in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but also in neighbouring islands such as Barbados, which has also been severely affected… as well as Saint Lucia and Grenada,” he told reporters.
He described the situation as “a crisis that will require a humanitarian response but also a response in terms of rehabilitation”.
“This is a crisis that is going to last certainly more than six months in the sub-region, in Saint Vincent, and other islands,” he said
He said the UN was setting up an international funding appeal.
About 4,000 of those displaced are now living in 87 shelters – many of which lack basic services such as drinking water. Others have moved in with family or friends and some have taken boats to neighbouring islands.
Mr Trebucq said water provision was the main priority for aid teams, followed by shelter.
“The clean-up of the ashes, finally, is another important priority, in terms of environmental health but also clean-up to make sure that life can come back to normal outside the red zone as soon as possible,” he added.