Although a family living near the Piparo mud volcano was told to evacuate because of the imminent threat of an eruption, members of the public are ignoring warnings to stay away from the site.
Yesterday a family, including children, were among several people who bypassed caution tape at two main access points and the perimeter of the volcano to get a close-up view of the natural phenomenon. Some of them even climbed the mound to get a better view.
Snr Superintendent of the Southern Division Wayne Mohammed was kept busy turning people away from the site.
Issuing another warning to the public, he said: “I am beseeching the media to assist the police in asking persons who are not living in and around the area of Piparo not to venture to the mud volcano, that it is a disaster zone.”
Meanwhile, in a media release, the Ministry of National Security assured residents that activity at the site is being closely monitored by the relevant authorities.
“The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) has been in consultation with the Disaster Management Units of the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government and with Mr Xavier Moonan, Senior Geoscientist at Touchstone Exploration. Mr Moonan has conducted numerous tests at the site as well as drone surveys to produce a 3D mapping of the area. Residents have also been consulted on the increased activity,” the ministry said.
“Just three days ago, one resident reported cracks forming on the Piparo Main Road which also caused damage to his home. The scent of sulphur was also noted.”
Officers from the Princes Town Fire Station, the T&T Police Service (TTPS) and Municipal Police cordoned off the area to prevent members of the public from entering the space which was closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. In addition, police patrols in the area have been increased.
The release continued: “The ODPM, TTPS, Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service (TTFS), Princes Town Regional Corporation, Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation, Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (GSTT) are closely observing the site to ensure the safety and security of residents and citizens.”
However, that has done little to allay residents’ fears. While on Tuesday morning they heard no rumbling sounds, residents said gas is still spewing out the crater, new cracks have appeared on the road, the old cracks have widened and the immediate area around the volcano has caved in.
The damage to the Solomon family’s home is worsening every day as the house continues to shift. The family has partially heeded police advice and have moved out their “prized possessions.” However, Fidel Solomon complained that there were no proper accommodations for him and his family.
Solomon, a businessman, recalled that after the major eruption in 1997 everyone got relocated except them.
“We built it back. A year ago there were movements we built it back and now (this),” he said.
He admitted that it is not safe for his family to remain in their home because of the structural damage and is asking to be allocated an HDC unit.
“Right now we need assistance because it is very bad right now. Is not like I want to leave here and go to an HDC house because of comfort or whatever,” he said.
Solomon said they were told that a shelter has been set up at the community centre, but its an open space with no bathroom facilities.
“It might be able to accommodate one family but not a village,” he said.
At present, he and his five relatives are sleeping on mattresses so in the event of any disaster they can make a speedy escape.
“For the last three nights, we are like owls, waking. You know you just resting your head but at any point in time you hearing noise, you hearing concrete falling. You just waiting to dispatch because of the volcano,” he said.
The family has been visited by Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, Couva Tabaquite Talparo Regional Corporation chairman Henry Awong and Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein.
Another resident, Shayam Mohammed, said neither he nor his neighbours have had any communications or visits from any officials.
Mohammed who was a child when the volcano erupted in 1997, said he has no plans to evacuate.
Geophysicist and CNC3 weather presenter Kalain Hosein, who visited the site yesterday, said the volcano is still very active and expelling a lot of gas. Noting that new cones have developed, he warned people against visiting the site.