More than a week after it began rumbling, the Piparo mud volcano has gone silent.
However, the disquiet has not eased the fears of residents who remain ready to evacuate in the event of an eruption. The Emergency Evacuation map has been shared out to residents and the plan remains that those who live to the west of the volcano will exit the disaster zone using Piparo Road, towards Guaracara Junction and then to the Riversdale Presbyterian Primary School. Those to the east of the volcano will proceed out of Piparo Road to Stone Road and then to Piparo Community Centre.
Resident Fidel Solomon said the silence of the volcano was unnerving.
“Absolutely nothing is going on and that is the scary part. I am speaking with the Victim Support Unit now. Many of my neighbours are just anxiously waiting. We are petrified and we are just praying,” he said.
The Solomons still have not evacuated.
“We have nowhere to go and we cannot stay in the centre. There are no facilities there to shower. Last night someone called us from the Ministry of Housing and said temporary housing will be provided. They supposed to get back to me,” Solomon said.
Chairman of the Princes Town Regional Corporation Gowrie Roopnarine said since Thursday the volcano has stopped making noises but he said this has not reduced the anxiety which has settled over the community since last Saturday. So why has the volcano gone silent?
CNC3’s weather anchor and Geophysicist Kalain Hosein explains.
Why did the volcano rumble but did not blow?
From deep in the earth, hydrocarbons, mostly gas but sometimes oil, and water move along a fault into layers of the earth that are at a lower pressure and lower density. This slurry of mud, water, and gas moves into shallow layers, building up pressure in these sands. On the surface, some of this pressure is released resulting in small mud volcano cones, vents and mud pools. This is the first stage.
What happens next?
As time progresses, generally on the order of 20 to 30 years in Trinidad, this pressure builds up, causing bulging of the ground and fractures or faults to develop on the surface. We may see additional cones developing around the perimeter of the mud volcano, as well as gas and mud escaping through these cracks. This is stage two.
At stage three, we have the first-ever large, violent eruption of the mud volcano. As the mud collapses and spreads out laterally across the ground, we see these white, sandy rings, as seen in the Devil’s Woodyard eruption early in 2018. This was also the case in the 1997 eruption of Piparo. As the pressure is released below the ground, we may even see the ground subside or sink in areas near the volcano.
This new mud at the surface seals the previous vents and restarts a new cycle of pressure build-up below the ground, leading to subsequent eruptions.
Is the eruption imminent?
When pressure builds up over 20 to 30 years we see the fracturing occurring again around the volcano as the ground swells. Those smaller cones and mud pools on the periphery of the volcano also develop as the next eruption becomes imminent. This is where we are at today.
How long did it take for the volcano to blow in 1997?
In 1997, it took three weeks after we saw the first signs of an imminent eruption, as we had seen over the last several days before the disastrous event occurred. Now, this doesn’t mean that the expected violent eruption is going to occur in three weeks, but it gives us the idea that one is coming and those living in the area need to have that to-go bag ready and be aware of your evacuation route. See Page A18