Volcanic craters widen at Piparo

The frac­tures around the Pi­paro vol­cano are con­tin­u­ing to widen while in­creased gaseous emis­sions are be­ing record­ed by geo­sci­en­tists who are mon­i­tor­ing the vol­cano on a week­ly ba­sis.

In prepa­ra­tion for an im­pend­ing erup­tion, all State agen­cies met for a plan­ning ses­sion at the Pi­paro Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­tre on Thurs­day.

The agen­cies in­clud­ed the Of­fice of Dis­as­ter Pre­pared­ness and Man­age­ment (ODPM), Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies geo­sci­en­tist, T&TEC, South­west Re­gion­al Health Au­thor­i­ty, Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, T&T De­fense Force, T&T Po­lice Ser­vice, Min­istry of Works, T&T Fire Ser­vice, En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Au­thor­i­ty, Land Set­tle­ment Agency, Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tions, Red Cross and the Pi­paro Vil­lage Coun­cil.

Act­ing Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Pene­lope Brad­shaw-Niles said the meet­ing was fruit­ful as all agen­cies were able to in­di­cate what re­sources were avail­able in the event of an erup­tion.

“We will de­vel­op a to­tal evac­u­a­tion plan for the long term. The plan is not ful­ly com­plet­ed, we have a draft out­line based on the re­search that was done by UWI. The next step is that every­one will sub­mit their in­puts, col­late and we will do a table­top ex­er­cise to sim­u­late what the re­sponse will be in case of an erup­tion,” Brad­shaw-Niles said.

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of the Of­fice of Dis­as­ter Pre­pared­ness Ma­jor Gen­er­al (Ret’d) Rod­ney Smart said if the vol­cano erupt­ed, he was con­fi­dent that all agen­cies were in place to ren­der as­sis­tance to the vil­lagers.

 Asked whether evac­u­a­tion plans were in place, Smart said, “Evac­u­a­tion is de­pen­dent on whether you have an erup­tion. We can­not pre­dict how soon but we have peo­ple from the Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies and the Pe­tro­le­um Stud­ies Unit who are do­ing sci­en­tif­ic mon­i­tor­ing. If some­thing should hap­pen they will give us ear­ly warn­ings to put things in place,” he added.

Smart fur­ther said that af­ter all the agen­cies give their writ­ten in­puts, the plan will move from “a vir­tu­al plan to an ac­tu­al plan.”

He said based on the in­for­ma­tion sup­plied by the geo­sci­en­tists, there was a need to have more fre­quent mon­i­tor­ing of the vol­canic ac­tiv­i­ties.

Guardian Me­dia’s pho­tog­ra­ph­er Rishi Ra­goonath braved rain and mud to get to the mouth of the vol­cano where gap­ing cracks with bub­bling mud were seen.

Se­nior geo­sci­en­tist at Touch­stone Ex­plo­ration Xavier Moo­nan said they were work­ing on get­ting the prop­er equip­ment to mon­i­tor the vol­cano.

He said, right now there are on­ly week­ly up­dates but with new equip­ment, there can be up­dates every minute.

Asked to ex­plain re­cent de­vel­op­ments with the vol­cano, Moo­nan said, “Our seis­mic to­mog­ra­phy tests showed sig­nif­i­cant changes in the sub­sur­face com­pared to sur­veys we ran pre­vi­ous­ly, and ties with our sur­face ob­ser­va­tions. We will con­tin­ue to ac­quire more da­ta as of­ten as pos­si­ble with the equip­ment we have un­til the re­al-time mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment is in­stalled.”

Moo­nan said yes­ter­day’s meet­ing was very fruit­ful, “All agen­cies have had their in­put in­to the gen­er­a­tion of a  sound evac­u­a­tion plan for the vil­lagers of Pi­paro. The de­tails of this will be dis­closed to the vil­lagers on Sat­ur­day.”

He added, “ This meet­ing helped to get every­one aware of each oth­er’s role, ca­pac­i­ty, and lim­i­ta­tions and gen­er­al­ly to get every­one on the same page, for a dis­as­ter which can very well di­rect­ly af­fect ap­prox­i­mate­ly 30 house­holds.”

Moo­nan not­ed that the ODPM will be sync­ing ef­forts and co­or­di­nat­ing mul­ti­ple min­istries and agen­cies to en­sure that there are no ca­su­al­ties when the erup­tion oc­curs.

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Story by RADHICA DA SILVA

Image by RISHI RAGOONATH

Image caption: The fractures around the Piparo volcano continue to widen while increased gaseous emissions are being recorded by geoscientists who are monitoring the volcano around the clock

 

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