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Low chance of tsunami from volcanic activity at Kick ‘Em Jenny – Expert

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Following the report of increased activity at the Kick ‘Em Jenny underwater volcano, the director of the Seismic Research Centre at the University of the West Indies St Augustine campus, Trinidad is assuring the public that the chance of a resulting tsunami is “quite low” at present.{{more}}

In a radio address yesterday, Dr Richard Robertson said that the team at the Seismic Research Centre has been observing increased activity at the submarine volcano since July 11.

“We’ve had an increase in the number of small earthquakes or micro earthquakes… that are usually associated with volcanoes prior to some sort of eruptive activity… about 200 events recorded. Events have progressively increased in terms of numbers and in terms of size and early this morning… between 1:25 a.m and 3 a.m, our seismic instruments recorded a particularly strong continuous signal on instruments that were closest to Kick ‘em Jenny,” explained Dr Robertson.

He further said that the signals have since been analysed and he can confirm that there was an “eruption of some sort” at the underwater volcano.

“Based on particular signature that you have when you have an underwater eruption, it’s something that is called a ‘T’ phase… we have recorded one of these ‘T’ phases at monitoring stations to the north of the Eastern Caribbean.”

Dr Robertson also said that these sort of eruptions don’t usually cause any physical changes at the surface, and that this sort of increased activity at Kick ‘Em Jenny has occurred repeatedly in the past since 1935 – with the last such activity being in 2001.

He acknowledged that the activity could either increase or decrease at this stage, but assured the public that teams in both St Vincent and Grenada are closely monitoring the situation.

“The most concerning aspect of it currently is for shipping that is associated with the Kick ‘Em Jenny area. Currently the government of Grenada has increased seismic level to orange,” he explained. “It means, therefore, that ships shouldn’t be within five kilometers of the summit of Kick ‘Em Jenny volcano, and that’s mainly to safeguard against the possibility of them being affected by some sort of eruptive activity.”

He added: “People have quite a bit of concern in terms of the potential for tsunami generation. We don’t think that is something that you should be too concerned about currently. If it does get to that stage, of course, we will keep monitoring the situation and alert the authorities. There is always a possibility that you could have much larger magma events during a particular sequence that could break the surface and generate some small waves.”

Dr Robertson also insisted that seismic activity that has been occurring in the Barbados north-east sequence recently is unrelated to this activity at Kick ‘Em Jenny.

“It’s not like one is causing the other, as far as we can see… both of them are related to the same kind of process that drives earthquakes and volcanoes in the region, so they are part of the normal process of the earth…”

He noted that his presence in St Vincent at this point is coincidental to the increased volcanic activity, and that he is here to be part of a consultation with the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) in connection with a potential community project.

“We have sent a small team to Grenada to beef up our monitoring network and they will also provide ongoing updates and ‘in real time’ information data to the management agency in Grenada. I’ll be doing the same in St Vincent.”

“The key thing to bear in mind is on shipping. People should keep finding out what’s happening, read the newspapers… don’t fuel any rumours, there is no information that is being kept back.”

Kick ‘Em Jenny is located at 12°. 18” N, 061°. 38” W or 8km (4.32 nautical miles) north of Grenada. (JSV)

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