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La Soufriere and Ebola – Two hazards

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Tue, Oct 7, 2014

Editor: I wish to use this medium to garner public opinion on and support for the monitoring of our volcano and the rapid spread of Ebola.

On Tuesday, September 30, a one-day consultation was held for looking at a draft volcano hazard plan, organized by NEMO and the Red Cross.{{more}} I asked how many persons currently monitor our volcano and if this information was readily available to the general public. The simple answer was that data from seismometers is streamed 24/7, but the persons monitoring this data are few in number, a handful if so many. To me, this is a serious concern.

This is the day and age of access to public information and therefore there should be more than just a handful of persons monitoring seismometers placed around our giant volcano and others in this region. Just as information is available via satellite and available on a computer or smart phone, which allows even the smallest child with sense to track a hurricane, why can’t we also monitor our active volcano? What if the handful of technocrats are incapacitated or ill and cannot get to a computer to observe that an eruption is imminent? Then all the communities at the base of La Soufriere will be at a disadvantage. The seismometers are there to serve as an EARLY WARNING system and everyone must have access to the data being streamed from these devices.

Of course, only official sources will announce that the area must be evacuated if an eruption is imminent, but a teacher teaching a class about volcanoes must be able to show what a live stream looks like and how to identify the wave forms and how they correspond to the magnitude of a tremor on a seismograph. Speaking with Dr Robertson from UWI Seismic on the topic during one of the breaks,

he said that public streaming of signals coming from our volcano can be done in a matter of a few keystrokes on a computer, but that it is not done currently. Asked why not, he mentioned financial constraints among the main factors not being able to stream live and that this country was not paying its dues to help maintain UWI Seismic; the latter being a serious indictment, as a large segment of our population is at risk from an eruption of La Soufriere.

During one of his presentations, Dr Robertson also intimated (at least this is how it came across) that there should be no fear of a volcanic vent opening anywhere else in St Vincent and the Grenadines other than at La Soufriere, I beg to differ. It is rational to say that the most likely place that an eruption will take place will be from the existing vent at La Soufriere. No scientist has yet been able to forecast the epicenter and magnitude of any earthquake. Earthquakes can cause the earth’s crust to fracture or crack and magma which is under extreme pressure and heat can force its way through these cracks to the surface ANYWHERE to form a volcano, whether on land or under the sea !!!

I strongly suggest that more Vincentians be trained to interpret incoming data from these seismometers, so that there is a larger pool of trained persons who can detect an abnormality and alert the professionals who may be off duty at the time to make a final decision.

And those persons who still damage or steal solar panels from seismometers on the volcano, you are foolish and backward. You are putting the nation at risk, including yourself !!!

EBOLA

It is now global … Ebola has been declared an epidemic and doctors from Cuba and elsewhere (MSF) have gone to Africa to help contain this deadly virus. Containment, along with treatment, is the most effective method to prevent its spread.

Just recently we heard of medical students from Africa studying in St Vincent being detained at ET Joshua and then brought to the Central Police Station. What folly! If these students were infected, it means that all who came in close contact with these persons, including all at the police station, airport and drivers would have been exposed to the easily spread virus. In the absence of a special building to quarantine persons suspected of having a contagious disease, it would be wise to design two or three air conditioned containers where suspected persons can be “contained” and treated. One can be kept on the airport compound to ward suspected cases to await deportation, reducing the risk of spreading the disease, while others can be kept at a safe location to treat anyone with a deadly infectious disease. Let’s act now and step up our vigilance at all our ports of entry.

Only a few days ago and for the first time, we learnt that there are sub marine mud volcanoes off Barbados from the Nautilus expedition.

Donald De Riggs

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