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Volcanic Ash

A man heaps up volcanic ash in Barrouallie, on Thursday. (iWN photo)

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The ongoing eruption of La Soufriere is expected to be bigger than in 1979 but has only so far produced about one-third of the new material that the volcano did 42 years ago.

“… Even if we have a week of nothing happening, and just earthquakes, just VT (volcano tectonic) earthquakes that we are having now, I don’t think we would say that it is finished, for a number of reasons,” volcanologist Professor Richard Robertson warned on Friday.

Speaking on NBC Radio, Robertson said that persons being affected by the eruption must bear in mind that, historically, the volcano has always erupted for longer than a week.

Further, the current eruption is expected to be more like 1902, which was bigger than in 1979, even as the on-going eruption has only produced one-third of the “new material” the volcano did four decades ago.

Second, the amount of energy that this volcano had at the beginning suggests “it has a lot more down there to come out,” he said.

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Robertson said that excluding the 1979 and 2020-2021domes — both of which the volcano has already destroyed — his team estimates that the volcano has only released a small portion of the fresh magma inside.

“… it is only about 20 million cubic metres, if any that has come out as fresh material,” Robertson said.

He said that in 1979, the volcano put out upwards of 60 million cubic metres of material.

And, in 1971, when the volcano erupted effusively, it put out something around 60 million cubic metres.

“So past eruptions which started less vigorously have produced new material that was much more, so to think now, when we have only had a small amount of new material put out that it is finished, I think we would be totally wrong,” Robertson said.

“So we have a little time yet. I know people would love it — I would love it to finish, too. But the reality is that we will have to deal with this thing for a little while. It might be that the way we would have to deal with it is by having to get accustomed to periodic explosions. I hope that is what it is, and explosions that produce ash that goes towards the coast, that goes off coast and drop the ash in the sea, but there is no guarantee that that would happen.

“At the very least, what is going to happen, if it does that, it is really going to damage and destroy a lot of the property and land on the volcano itself,” Robertson said.

La Soufriere erupted explosively on April 9, after three months of effusive eruptions.

As at 9:30 p.m. Friday (local/Atlantic Standard Time), the alert level remained RED, the highest on the four-colour chart.

The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said 87 shelters with 4,166 occupants were activated and  3,718 were being housed in private shelters.

A total of 1,459 families have been displaced so far.

The National Emergency Operations Centre continues to be fully functional and operating 24 hours.

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4 replies on “Eruption could produce twice as much more ash”

  1. JUST hope you’ll know where to start to our nation back up and going and stop moving like cat and mouse we or a nation with or without Ralph

  2. Avatar Of Urlan AlexanderUrlan Alexander says:

    Having experienced the 1971 effusive eruption and the 1979 explosive one it’s hard for me to believe that the ash fall in 2021 is at the same level with those precious eruptions. Maybe I am very poor in my estimation and so too are a lot of people.

  3. Avatar Of Duke DearmentDuke DeArment says:

    It sounds to me that the experts do not know anything for sure. All they can go by is seeing what this and other volcanos have done in the past and then just make a prediction. I think Vincentians in those areas are doing the right thing by just going about their regular recovery, but anyone and anything that gets closer and closer to the volcano have to be cautious.
    Now it is being speculated that the geothermal drilling could have been the cause of this activity. I do not know if Kenton is allowed to print my comment stating that because we all know that free speech is limited in SVG. Many have stated it was strange that the geothermal project just suddenly ended, and then weeks later the volcano started to show signs of activity. Who knows? Ivan O’Neal was stating at the beginning that the geothermal project was dangerous and could cause volcanic activity. Maybe that Oxford education did him more good than just making him a famous economist in Asia.

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