It’s a year since geoscientists predicted an imminent eruption of the Piparo mud volcano, spurring national security experts to hammer out an evacuation plan complete with drills.
But the eruption has not occurred and residents remain fearful that the prolonged silence may well be the precursor to a powerful eruption.
When Guardian Media visited the volcano on Wednesday, there was silence except for the roar of the wind. Residents said during heavy rainfall, the volcano belches spurts of gas and blasts resembling gunshots.
Larry Joseph said he was disappointed that no monitoring systems were installed at the volcano to warn the residents of the danger. Saying the volcano was being treated as a joke, Joseph said, “In my yard, I showed them gas coming up especially when the rain falls. We just looking on right now. In the meantime the cracks are continuing to widen,” Joseph said.
Shanshudeen Hosein believes that the volcano was being used to gain political points.
“I don’t feel good about this. Nobody in this government at this moment is seeking our interest. The only thing we ask for and we get were two lights that they installed there,” he said.
He added, “We need the officials in authority to come here. Right now the volcano’s sulphur is running down into the land and we cannot plant any produce. Nothing can grow.”
He noted that the roads were in a deplorable condition.
“If something were to happen how could we get in and out of Piparo? They came for elections and throw boulders in the road. They promised hot mix, we never even get that,” Hosein added.
Fidel Solomon, whose home had splintered from the volcanic movements, last year, said the area remains unsafe but they had no choice but to continue living there.
“We supposed to get some monitors since last September, a year now but nothing really happened,” Solomon said.
He explained, “The volcano every hour you will hear a loud boom coming from the mouth, noises in the back. The movements in the land haven’t stopped,” Solomon said.
He called on the authorities to look into the plight of the villagers.
“We cannot leave. They said it is unsafe here but a year later, we still here. The monitors would help us to be prepared and a year later we have nothing and nowhere to go. We waiting still,” Solomon said.
Contacted for comment, a senior geoscientist at Touchstone Exploration Xavier Moonan confirmed that no monitoring was taking place.
“No funding was given so no equipment could be bought so no monitoring systems could be installed,” Moonan said. He added, “The volcano has gone ‘quiet’ for some time now and there is very little subsidence. The ‘behaviour’ of the mud volcano now is no longer following the general sequence of events that led to the 1997 eruption.”
He added, “Without any further scientific means of observing and monitoring the volcano, as a geologist, we can now cautiously say that a threat of eruption has dissipated, but please keep in mind that we have very little hard data to draw such a conclusion.”
He said it was important for residents to be sensitised.
“Petroleum geoscience will continue to monitor within our means, and when we get equipment and resources we will continue to engage,” Moonan said.
He noted that Piparo is still ‘due or overdue’ for a big eruption.
“Activity can quickly heighten after earthquakes or periods of significant rainfall,” he noted.
Contacted for comment Minister of Local Government Kazim Hosein said no equipment was procured by his Ministry as this was outside of his purview.
Efforts to contact Minister of National Security Stuart Young proved futile as calls to his cellular phone went unanswered and he did not respond to WhatsApp messages.