RADHICA DE SILVA
Although the Piparo mud volcano seems ready to blow, most residents have refused to evacuate. Torn between the threat of the impending eruption and the possibility of floods associated with Tropical Storm Karen, residents opted to stay in their homes.
The Piparo Community Centre was identified as an emergency shelter and despite torrential rains, members of the Couva/ Tabaquite/ Talparo Regional Corporation (CTTRC) were out advising residents to evacuate. However, most residents ignored the warning and instead packed their cars with emergency food supplies, clothing, medicine and important documents in case they had to make a hasty retreat.
One resident, Hanifha Karim, who lives about half a mile from the volcano, said her family was on standby and ready to move if necessary. She said she was terrified that the volcano will erupt and cover part of the village as it did on February 22, 1997, but is also concerned about the storm and whether leaving home will bring greater problems.
"We just waiting to see what is happening. We really scared now, " she said.
Another resident, Annalisa Solomon, said her family will seek refuge at the community centre.
"We have been speaking to the councillor and we have already packed up our stuff to go to the shelter," she said.
CTTRC chairman Henry Awong said up to 2 pm only the Solomon family had agreed to evacuate. He said teams have been working with the villagers to prepare for any eventuality.
Meanwhile, senior scientist from Touchstone Exploration, Xavier Moonan, called on the government to barricade the area. He said drone surveys of the volcano's crater and fissures show that it is about to blow.
Moonan and his team toured the volcano on Sunday morning, hours after residents reported seeing fissures and cracks around the area.
"We should advise people to not venture onto it at least. It looks like it may blow very soon. We are seeing up to two feet of motion on some fractures," Moonan said.
In May, the geoscientist reported interesting changes on the surface and subsurface of the volcanic vents which erupted on February 22, 1997, displacing 31 families and killing livestock and birds. During that eruption, thick warm liquid mud spewed up to 200 feet into the air. The expanse of volcanic dirt covered an area of 2.5 km.