Scientists say volcano continues to erupt explosively in st. Vincent

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Photo: R. Robertson, UWI-SRC

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The La Soufriere volcano continues to erupt explosively with the production of copious amounts of ash, the Trinidad-based Seismic Centre (SRC) of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said on Sunday night.

In an update posted on its website, the SRC, whose scientists are leading the team monitoring the volcano that became active last Friday, said that seismic activity continued the pattern that began on Saturday.

Photo: R. Robertson, UWI-SRC

“The seismic network recorded short episodes of high-amplitude seismic tremor, each lasting around 20 minutes and with gaps between them from one to six hours,” the SRC said, adding that the episodes appeared to coincide with periods of enhanced venting or explosive activity.

“The background level of seismic tremor between the episodes has been increasing slowly since about 10:30 am (local time).” That steaming in the upper parts of the Rabacca valley was observed at about midday.

The SRC said that investigation of the cause of this phenomenon is currently being investigated.

“The volcano continues to erupt explosively with the production of copious amounts of ash. Explosions and accompanying ashfall, of similar or larger magnitude, are likely to continue to occur over the next few days impacting St. Vincent and neighboring islands,” it added.

Volcanologist Professor Richard Robertson, Sunday warned that the ongoing eruption of La Soufriere volcano is in keeping with the events surrounding the 1902 eruption, which claimed 1,600 lives at a time when early warning systems and evacuation capabilities were not as advanced.

Speaking on the state-owned NBC Radio, Professor Robertson, the lead scientist monitoring the volcano,  said that while most people know of the 1979 eruption, what is currently happening at La Soufriere is more akin to more a century ago.

“The activity pattern we have currently is more similar to a 1902 type of eruption of that kind of scale, rather than a 1979 scale. The people who lived through 1979 know the kind of eruption we have had.

“What does that mean? It means, unfortunately, that it is likely going to cause more damage and destruction to St. Vincent. Still, it also means that there will always be a safe place in the south of the country, which might have a lot of ash 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.”

The volcano last erupted in 1979 with no causalities. But in 1902, more than 1,000 people died when the volcano erupted.

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