Activity at Piparo mud volcano intensifies, Trinidad and Tobago


Activity at Piparo mud volcano has intensified after a loud explosion was reported at 22:08 LT, September 21, 2019. According to geoscientists, more sub-surface activity is occurring. The public is advised to not venture onto the mud volcano due to its heightened activity.

The loud explosion resulted in cracks across Pancho Trace, according to Trinidad and Tobago Weather Center.

Residents said the air had a high sulfur scent. After the cracks damaged several homes, people began self-evacuating.

However, some residents have not yet evacuated including the Solomon household. Annalisa Solomon stated in an interview that they have not relocated because of the unfavorable conditions at the community shelter.

The family tried to visit the center but after discovering that it has no bathroom, the family returned to their home. "We stayed awake all night on Sunday. There is still some movement to the building. Cracks are widening," she stated.

The site is reportedly a "ticking time bomb" according to Princes Town MP Barry Padarath.

"I have spoken to minister Kazim Hosein this morning, he has assured me they are going to send Down additional seismologists and geologists to conduct some testing in light of what we are hearing that it is a ticking time bomb but it would be up to the residents themselves in terms of evacuation," he said.

Padarath also mentioned that the authorities need further information before making the determination. He added that the mud volcano appears to be producing sulphuric gases.

"The main thing that needs to be done right now is additional testing and for persons to come into the area and give us as an assessment of what has occurred and what they predict will happen in the future before any additional action is taken by residents."

However, he said that the event is not being treated as an urgent matter. The only main shelter is the Piparo government school.

Henry Awong, Couva/Tabaquite Talparo Regional Corporation chairman noted that the area around the volcano has been cordoned off, saying "it has been deemed dangerous to life and limb."

The area continues to show signs of an upcoming eruption, according to Xavier Moonan, a senior geoscientist at Touchstone Exploration. "There is a heavily-fractured area 12 m (40 ft) north of the cur­rent ac­tive vent which has had a net up­lift of 0.36 m (1.2 ft) when compared to previous drone topography survey conducted in August 2019."

A notable eruption occurred at the volcano 22 years ago, on February 22, 1997. Properties were submerged in 2.5 km3 (1 mi3) of mud which hardened eventually into concrete-like clay. Around 31 households were permanently evacuated.

Featured image credit: AAPG Young Professionals Trinidad & Tobago Chapter

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