Thu | May 6, 2021

Unclear when La Soufrière eruptions will subside UWI scientist says

Published:Sunday | April 11, 2021 | 12:39 PM
The La Soufrière volcano in the St Vincent and the Grenadines (contributed photo).
A building saturated with ash from the La Soufrière in St Vincent and the Grenadines (contributed photo).

Director of the Seismic Research Centre on St Augustine campus of The University of the West Indies in Trinidad, Dr Erouscilla Joseph says its not possible to predict how long the La Soufrière volcanic eruptions in St Vincent and the Grenadines will continue. 

Speaking this afternoon on The Gleaner's sister station, Radio Jamaica's 'That's a Wrap', she said it is possible that the eruptions could go on for months.

The volcanologist revealed that there have been more than 20 explosions so far.  

Comparing the current eruption to the 1979 explosion, Joseph said the two have been very different. 

"What is happening now is that the explosion and the ash are going more vertically rather than flowing [downward]," she explained. 

The vertical manner in which the volcano has been spewing ash, supported by wind, has, therefore, resulted in greater spread, she told today's host, The Gleaner's Damion Mitchell. 

Fellow volcanologist at the Seismic Research Centre Professor Richard Robertson told the Caribbean News Agency that the eruptions appear more similar to La Soufrière's 1902 deadly eruption, and could cause more destruction that 1979's activities. 

Some 1,600 people died in 1902. 

"It means, unfortunately, that it is likely going to cause more damage and destruction to St. Vincent but it also means that there will always be a safe place in the south of the country, which might have a lot of ash every now and then, but you can still sustain life and limb and it would not — which is what we all worry about — get so big that it destroys the whole country. That’s currently doesn’t seem to be the case," he said.   

Ash from the volcanic eruptions has saturated communities in St Vincent and the Grenadines and has also spread to neighbouring country, Barbados, where there was a lock down of the island's international airport. Ash fall has also been reported in Grenada. 

As result of the ash saturation, there has been no power or running water in St Vincent since yesterday. 

"The safety of the water supply is a primary concern," Joseph said. "The water authorities in St Vincent will continue to take the action necessary to try and safeguard the water," she said, pointing out that it will need to find ways of providing potable water to citizens, particularly those in shelters.   

She said rain could assist to reduce the ash saturation, although it has its disadvantages. She said it could help to wash away the ash, but it could also result in clogged drains and other infrastructural damage.  

She said tremors would also continue as long as the volcano's activities continue, but said they are not likely to cause structural damage. 

"The structural damage right now is being associated with the ash fall," she said.    

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