The quietness of the Piparo mud volcano could be the calm before the storm as was experienced in 1997 when there was a three week lull before the eruption.
Speaking at the site yesterday, senior geoscientist with Touchstone Exploration and UWI lecturer, Xavier Moonan, asked villagers to continue to be vigilant.
“These sort of expressions are what actually ties every well to the eruption we had back in 1997. There was a lull period of about three weeks and so that’s why we are paying attention to this time period to see if this is continuing to match that. The most we can do without any further scientific data is just to see if it continues to match that and then we will know whether we are expecting a major eruption or if it is going to go back to slumber again.”
However, he said the existing cracks on the ground were wider, there were new cracks and “a fair amount of gas” was bubbling from the main vent and smaller vents.
Moonan was part of a team from the University of West Indies Department of Petroleum Geoscience that conducted a seismic tomography 2D survey at the volcano site yesterday.
However, Moonan said updated and sophisticated equipment is needed to monitor the volcano more accurately and efficiently.
He recalled that they made a proposal for new equipment to Government after the mud volcano at the Devil’s Woodyard in New Grant erupted last year.
He said, “One of the equipment that we have recommended that we are trying to get is the wireless tiltmeters.”
Once installed on the site, he said those meters will be able to broadcast to them no matter where they are in the country real time information from the volcano.
He said there were also much better versions of the equipment they currently use at UWI which will allow them to capture date much faster.
He noted that the volcano site will first have to be properly secured and monitored to prevent the equipment from being vandalised.
Moonan said the National Gas Company also conducted tests and determined that the sulphur scents were not concentrated enough to be harmful to the residents.
He said the data from yesterday’s survey will be compared to previous data captured periodically over the past few years to determine the level of underground activity taking place.
The results are expected within 24 hours. Even if the volcano erupts, Moonan said the mud flow is not expected to go beyond the previous area that was covered.
While residents’ houses may not be covered with mud, he said the houses will likely sustain structural damage.
UWI geophysicist Dr Oshaine Blake, who was at the site from 6 am, said had done surveys at the site since 2014.
He said, “It is quite exciting because we are seeing mini eruption and from this we will be able to tell if the volcano is actually spreading.”
Prior to the eruption two Saturday’s ago, he said their data showed there were no changes in activity at the volcano. He said the information from the data will be made available to the authorities and the residents.