President of the Piparo Village Council Ryan Ghanny is calling for an emergency response team, inclusive of army/police personnel, to be set up in the community in the likely event that the mud volcano erupts.
In a telephone interview on Saturday, Ghanny lamented that not enough was being done to prepare the community. “We have plenty issues, we not prepared,” said Ghanny. He complained that there are no clear guidelines, no resources, including equipment, supplies and infrastructure, in place to ensure a speedy and safe evacuation and efficient response by the relevant agencies.
Noting that to date an evacuation route has not been mapped out, Ghanny said apart from the immediate area being cordoned off, no warning signage has been erected. “We need security to man the area. I think they should have an incident command post in the area, they could use the community centre to house security officers with vehicles, and the army. We need a little more structure and support. Even the villagers need to prepare themselves.”
He was not satisfied that the volcano was being properly monitored daily. Complaining that the community also needs street lights, he said, “This (volcano) is not going to tell us when it is going to erupt.”
Recalling the major eruption in February 1997 that displaced 31 families, buried cars and roads in mud, he said, “In 1997 eople had to run for their lives. We need more than what is happening now.” On Friday night a meeting with Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, Couva Tabaquite Talparo Regional Corporation chairman Henry Awong, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management head Rodney Smart and other stakeholders was held with residents to discuss evacuation routes, shelters, etc.
Arising out of the meeting, Ghanny said the corporation’s disaster and management unit held a training session with villagers at the community centre. Two Saturday’s ago the volcano began showing signs of increased activity, resulting in structural damage to one house, large cracks on the roads and the perimeter of the volcano. Residents reported rumbling sounds and a sulphur odour emanating from the volcano, as well as, feeling the ground vibrations. Experts have described the volcano as a ticking time bomb, but their warnings to the public to desist from visiting the site have been ignored. National Security Minister Stuart Young issued a similar warning. He also gave the assurance the situation is being closely monitored and emergency/protective arms are ready should the volcano erupts.
Disaster experts advise residents of emergency plan—ODPM
Meanwhile, a release from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) on Saturday said a team of disaster officials met with residents of Piparo on Friday evening to advise of an evacuation plan in the event of an eruption.
In a release said the ODPM's CEO Major General Rodney Smart along with the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government Raymond Seepaul, led a team of disaster managers to Piparo to meet residents and update them on an emergency response and evacuation plan for the area.
Officials said it was done to improve the community’s response capability.
They said residents were urged to develop a family evacuation plan aligned to the community evacuation plan.
Discussions were also held on developing community alert mechanisms such as using the community Masjid’s bell, vehicle horns and local communication groups, the release stated.
They said the residents were also advised to form a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
The release said a CERT was established at the Princes Town Community Centre on Saturday, along with the strengthening of the evacuation plan based on local knowledge of the area.
Residents were to also provide further input into the strategy for the evacuation of vulnerable people within the community in the event of a disaster.
Smart claimed the combined efforts of the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government and all other state agencies would result in the improvement of the overall response and resilience of the Piparo Community.