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Eruption continues at Tinakula, water contaminated, people living on coconuts

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The Tinakula volcano in Solomon Islands continues erupting for the fifth day in a row after it burst into life October 20, 2017. Heavy ashfall has already contaminated water supplies on nearby islands, but since the area is a no-fly-zone, residents will need to wait a while before fresh water reaches all of them.

While Tinakula is uninhabited and there are no fears lava flows will directly affect the population, heavy ashfall produced by Tinakula has already contaminated wells and water tanks on some nearby islands and residents say they are living off coconuts.

On October 25, Radio New Zealand said that there are reports that people only have a few days worth of fresh water and coconuts to survive on as heavy rain over the past few days has washed toxic ash into waterways and storage tanks.

The director of the National Disaster Management Office Loti Yates said fresh water is on its way but it would be a little while coming as the area was still a no-fly-zone.

"Well the boat will take approximately 20 hours steaming that way covering the whole of Temotu under the franchise shipping arrangement. So we are hoping that what coconuts and what clean water they have, they will be using those until the boat arrives," Yates said.

There are no seismographs on Tinakula and the area is still a no-fly-zone, making monitoring very difficult.

Thanks to Okano Gamara, we do have several fresh images of Tinakula's latest eruption:

Tinakula eruption - October 2017. Credit: Okano Gamara

Tinakula eruption – October 2017. Credit: Okano Gamara

Tinakula eruption - October 2017. Credit: Okano Gamara

Tinakula eruption – October 2017. Credit: Okano Gamara

Tinakula eruption - October 2017. Credit: Okano Gamara

Tinakula eruption – October 2017. Credit: Okano Gamara

Tinakula eruption - October 2017. Credit: Okano Gamara

Tinakula eruption – October 2017. Credit: Okano Gamara

The last eruptive episode of this volcano lasted from September (19), 2008 to October 23, 2012. It had Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 1.

Geological summary

The small 3.5-km-wide (2.2 miles) uninhabited island of Tinakula is the exposed summit of a massive stratovolcano that rises 3 – 4 km (1.9 – 2.5 miles) from the sea floor at the NW end of the Santa Cruz islands.

Tinakula resembles Stromboli volcano in containing a breached summit crater that extends from the 851-m-high (2 792 feet) summit to below sea level. Landslides enlarged this scarp in 1965, creating an embayment on the NW coast.

The satellitic cone of Mendana is located on the SE side. The dominantly andesitic Tinakula volcano has frequently been observed in eruption since the era of Spanish exploration began in 1595.

In about 1840, an explosive eruption apparently produced pyroclastic flows that swept all sides of the island, killing its inhabitants. Frequent historical eruptions have originated from a cone constructed within the large breached crater. These have left the upper flanks of the volcano and the steep apron of lava flows and volcaniclastic debris within the breach unvegetated. (GVP)

Featured image: Tinakula eruption – October 2017. Credit: Okano Gamara

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