Expert denies rumours of explosive eruption at La Soufriere

Expert denies rumours of explosive eruption at La Soufriere

Sunday, January 17, 2021

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) has dismissed reports of explosive eruptions of La Soufriere  after residents of North Leeward reported seeing “fire” at the volcano, which has been erupting effusively since late December.

 “The magma continues to flow out of the crater, so that is a normal part of an effusive eruption,” Director of NEMO Michelle Forbes said on NBC Radio around 10:40 pm (local time).

“We are asking persons to remain calm. There is no explosive eruption at the moment. There is no evacuation order for anywhere above the Dry River or any community in St Vincent and the Grenadines at this moment.” Forbes said.

“That is a normal part of an effusive eruption,” she said, noting that Professor Richard Robertson, a geologist from the Seismic Research Centre in Trinidad, which is monitoring the volcano, had spoken about this glow weeks ago.

And, in a separate call to NBC Radio Saturday night, Robertson, who is originally from Rose Hall, urged the public to remain calm, saying the glow at the volcano is expected.

As a result of the effusive eruption, a second dome is growing inside the volcano alongside the one that resulted from the explosive eruption of 1979.

“As the dome gets bigger — and it has gotten bigger — people will begin, on the western flanks, especially in Chateaubelair, will begin to see what we call in volcanology, incandescence or glowing of the dome,” Robertson said. 

“And this is natural because the volcano has been erupting and has been erupting hot material, creating a mountain of very hot materials. The materials have temperatures of 500 or 600 degrees Celsius. These materials naturally give off a glow.”

He said it is difficult to see the glow during the day because of the brightness of the sun, but it is visible at night.

“You hadn't seen it so far because it was below the rim. But as the mountain (the new dome) inside gets closer and closer to the [rim of the volcano] you begin to see more of the glow,” Robertson said.

“Eventually, when it gets high enough, they are going to actually see the mountain (dome) itself. And I will like to prepare them for the fact that as it gets bigger, you are gonna see the glow more.”

He said one way in which the dome grows is by pushing out material at the outer flanks of the volcano. The material, in turn, spills off. He said this results in rock falls and during the day, persons will see dust as the rock falls.

“But if you see it in the night, it looks like rivers of red, fiery material, because, again, it is hot material and it glows in the night, because there is no sun.  So the dome is glowing. It is not erupting explosively. It is glowing as it has been doing since it first came out but it is just that people couldn't see it.”

 “It is natural; it is what is expected,” Robertson said.

He said residents should continue with their lives, as they have been doing since the effusive eruption was made public.

“We have been monitoring it. We have been showing you pictures. It's doing what it has been doing for the last few weeks. It hasn't fundamentally changed,” he said of the volcano, which is 4,048 feet high.

“So, you should listen to the authorities, listen to what NEMO says, what their guidance is. If it goes to an explosive phase, you will hear it, you will see it, you will see different things than simply glowing and you will clearly know that there is a need to take action. You will hear the NEMO on it; you will hear the authorities tell you that you need to evacuate,” Robertson said.

He, however, emphasised that the volcano is not at that stage.

“Hopefully it doesn't get to that stage in the near future. It may, it is possible, but what you are seeing is the dome growing, and that's natural. You should remain calm. It is going to become more spectacular as time goes on. It is gonna become brighter, it is going to happen more and it is going to happen even if it doesn't go explosive. If it goes explosive, it would be a different kind of sight that you'd see in the night,” Robertson said.


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