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  • Writer's pictureClara

Experts predict growth of new St Vincent volcano dome

4 January 2021

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) – One of the scientists monitoring the La Soufriere volcano, which began erupting effusively one week ago, says residents should remain on high alert, but not panic about the situation.

“… in summary, you may have to remain at a high [alert] level for a long time. You need to keep listening out, you don’t have to get overly concerned … What you need to do is that if the volcano goes explosive, essentially, we need to move off the mountain for a certain period of time until it gets rid of all that explosion. And then at some point, you may be able to come back,” Richard Robertson, a geologist, said during an interview on local radio on the weekend

Robertson, is among a team of specialists from the Seismic Research Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine campus in in Trinidad and Tobago that has been dispatched to help monitor the volcano.

“Good or bad, the effusive part in Soufriere has often gone on for longer than the explosive part. So it may go on for a little while and so people need to sort of be prepared for a longer haul — a few weeks, at least, of this going on and, therefore, being at a high level of alert. But don’t get complacent, don’t get overly panicky about the situation but just be prepared that you may have to move or you may not.”

Emergency management officials have been using aircraft to monitor the growth of a new dome, which was discovered last Tuesday in the volcano that last erupted in 1979.

The 1979 event, an explosive eruption that took place on April 13, Good Friday, is said to have resulted in the evacuation of 20,000 persons from North Leeward and North Windward.

No lives were lost as a consequence of that eruption, which saw thousands of persons spending months in evacuation camps set up mainly in schools and other public buildings.

On Saturday, the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said that no aerial reconnaissance was done on that day as a result of the high wind advisory in effect for the country.

NEMO said that Robertson and his team, however, continued work to upgrade the volcano monitoring system.

A webcam monitoring system was installed at Rose Hall to constantly monitor the summit of the volcano. A data centre was also established at the observatory at Belmont to analyse the data collected from the volcano.

The team also conducted an alternate site exploration at Fancy and other areas to identify new sites where equipment would be installed.

Robertson says that his team is in St. Vincent mainly to augment the monitoring system by installing more monitoring stations.

“Because once you’re at the stage of something happening like it’s happening … it’s important to put in a lot more seismic stations, GPS stations,” he said, adding that there are other kinds of monitoring stations and his team brought quite a bit of kits.

“And we’ve been going out, preparing, recceing (doing recognisance at) sites,” he said, adding that a new site had been installed in Georgetown on Friday — New Year’s Day.

“But while we are doing that, of course, we are part of a larger team that is both consisting of scientists based in Trinidad and also in Montserrat. We have a large group as well working in NEMO. And so we’ve been collecting information.”

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