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Dome at La Soufriere continues to grow, technical capacity at NEMO office strengthened

Dome at La Soufriere continues to grow, technical capacity at NEMO office strengthened
Left to Right: DR Roderick Stewart & Sylvan McIntyre Superintendent

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The newer dome of the effusively erupting La Soufriere volcano continues to grow at roughly two cubic meters per second, and shows no signs of stopping.

Lead of the scientific team on the ground, experienced Volcano-Seismologist, Roderick Stewart, provided an update on March 10, as a guest on ‘Round Table Talk’.

He said that the volcano continues to erupt effusively, meaning it continues to extrude lava slowly.

“The dome is slowly growing but there is still no sign of it either stopping or it going to some sort of explosive eruption,” the scientist stated. While the eruption remains relatively quiet, the dome continues to pose a hazard as it is still growing.

“…As it gets bigger and bigger the hazards will change,” Stewart commented, but as it stood at that time there were no great changes to report.

He however said persons should not become complacent.

“The eruption hasn’t showed signs of slowing down so at some stage we need to expect either explosive activity, or if the dome outgrows the existing crater then we’re going to see some flows down the valleys around the volcano without explosive activity,” he explained.

“So we should not be complacent, a volcano is a very dangerous thing but we’re fortunate that we’ve had this opportunity so that we can be properly prepared so that if these things do occur we can get people out safely, we can take the appropriate actions.”

He said his recollection of the last estimation of growth was two cubic metres per second, which is roughly equal to the volume of a standard refrigerator.

“…That amount of lava is coming out every second so it’s not insignificant, it’s a lot. But of the cloud conditions and the difficulties of access we can’t really see the small changes in the growth rate. But every time we’ve had a look at the dome, we’ve been able to sense it – it still seems to be growing at around two cubic meters per second.”

Volcanologist Dr Thomas Christopher who was the lead scientist for the team before Stewart’s arrival, studies the magma chamber processes. He is still on island, and Stewart indicated, had plans to install a new gas sensor close to the summit.

Christopher has also been measuring the sulphur dioxide, and, at his last reading, recorded very little.

Stewart has been centralizing the seismology; the system being used to monitor the earthquakes of the volcano.

Eight seismic stations were set up on St Vincent previously, the readings from which were being recorded and interpreted in Trinidad and Montserrat; but it was necessary for this to take place in St Vincent.

The seismologist has, therefore, been engaged in setting up the computers to record and analyse the data from the eight seismic stations, as well as training Vincentian staff for this purpose.

“…I’m not sure if I can teach people in the few weeks that I’m here but the volunteers have been great, they’re really learning and the plan is that when I go back to Montserrat I can support them remotely,” the seismologist admitted.
He noted that there is now a working seismic system.

Rain has been hindering trips to the summit, because of the dangers involved in carrying equipment on slippery trails.
Also in the country supporting the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) is Superintendent Sylvan McIntyre who was dispatched by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

He will be augmenting the technical capacity at the NEMO office.

“…Having persons pre-positioned is one of the newer things that has happened. In recent past we were responding more to the events after they have impacted,” McIntyre explained.

Director of NEMO, Michelle Forbes, revealed that NEMO has been working with CDEMA and other regional agencies, and they will be finalizing an exercise which will likely be conducted on March 25.

“…Not a full scale exercise but at least one that we could actually reach to the communities, they can communicate with us via radios so we will be stepping that up in the next week,” Forbes said.

This will join the radios already installed in Government vehicles.

“…We are moving now to having the base station of radios in the police stations, the clinics and also the mobile radio in the community so we can have that communication and this is really part of the ongoing upgrading of the emergency communication network which we started since about two years ago,” Forbes informed.