Scientists observing the Piparo mud volcano in Trinidad and Tobago said the catastrophic 1997 explosion may occur again this year after continuous volcanic activity. Loud explosions and cracks were reported by residents near the area on September 21, 2019, and several days after the scare, the cracks appear to be widening, according to current reports. Seismologists warned of probable eruptions that may occur anytime.
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Young Professionals Trinidad and Tobago Chapter shared a photo of the volcano taken on September 29 via drone, displaying more fractures near the vent.
"Subsidence continues at Piparo Mud Volcano. The drone imagery on September 29, 2019, shows more fractures have formed near the vent. All fractures are widening. The area has now undergone subsidence in the order of 1 m (3.4 feet) since September 22," the team stated.
Scientists expressed fear over the possibilities of another devastating eruption like the one that took place at the volcano 22 years ago. Reports said after rumblings, there was a lull in activity, followed by a massive mud eruption up to 61 m (200 feet) to the sky. The event left several houses covered in mud.
After experts conducted tests, it was revealed that the real danger is not the gases, but the mudflow which could be fatal to humans.
National Security Minister Stuart Young assured the locals living nearby the volcano that emergency responders, seismic experts, and the ODPM are monitoring the site for developments. Regional Corporation Chairman Henry Awong also provided aid to residents affected by volcanic activities.
Experts said the development of an impending underground disaster might not be accurately monitored, making eruptions unpredictable. With this, authorities are prompted to continue issuing evacuation alerts for all residents within a 500 m (1 640 feet) radius until there are no more risks.
"If people refuse to move then a mandatory evacuation must be implemented and transportation and shelter provided for the evacuees," Arthur Dash, a reporter of Trinidad and Tobago Newsday said in an editorial post. "The Ministry of National Security must also ensure that people’s properties are well secured and safe in their absence."
"I call on the authorities concerned to wake up and do what they were elected to do. Serve the people and stop being a bystander," Dash wrote.
The area has been closed to the public until further notice.
The 1997 Piparo mud volcano eruption resulted in the permanent displacement of at least 31 households. No fatalities were reported, but the damage to properties was devastating. A total of 33 houses and several cars were buried under the mud that hardened into concrete.
"In 1997 people had to run for their lives. We need more than what is happening now," said Ryan Ghanny, President of the Piparo Village Council.
Featured image credit: AAPG Young Professionals Trinidad and Tobago Chapter