They lived to tell the tale of the time when the Piparo mud volcano blew, spitting half a million barrels of warm, mud 200 feet in the air.
Now the survivors of the 1997 eruption are begging Piparo residents to pack up their belongings and move because history seems to be about to repeat itself.
During an exclusive interview with Guardian Media, Nick Hassanali said the drone footage and the cracks that he and the other survivors saw recently took them back to the time when they nearly lost their lives on February 22, 1997.
Hassanali said he was 13 years old at the time.
He said he lived about 25 feet away from the main vent of the volcano and his home, along with 14 others disappeared the day the volcano blew.
Unlike now, they had no ample warning and there were no geoscientists doing any research or monitoring the volcanic site. Hassanali said on February 3, 1997, his family noticed some cracks on the road which was bubbling.
“The volcano was not any big thing. It was a hole in the ground where bubbles use to come. The cracks extended from the hole in the ground. There was always a crack running under our house, but on February 3, we saw the cracks widening before our eyes,” he recalled.
He said within a week, their home started to move similar to what was happening at the home of Fidel Solomon.
“The electricity pole started to lean and T&TEC came and fixed it. The WASA main also burst and all of this was attributed to the land movement. Nobody thought it was a volcano ready to blow,” he said.
Currently, the water main near Solomon’s home has ruptured and the electricity lines have been leaning, similar to what occurred in 1997.
On the day of the eruption, Hassanali said his grandmother Rosanna Karim woke them up after hearing loud explosions.
“That morning things were different. It sounded like a bomb. The house boards were cracking. My grandmother woke up everyone even the neighbours. The cracks were opening up wider and the electricity pole had collapsed on the road,” Hassanali said.
Quickly all eight members of the family piled into two cars and they began negotiating their way down Piparo Road.
“It was like a movie. It was pitch dark and we did not know what was happening. The opposite road had gone. There was a big sinkhole. There was one access road, Lightfoot Trace which would head south. While driving down there, we heard this loud explosion and we realized that something had exploded. When dawn broke, we saw the mountain of mud and realised our home was gone,” Hassanali said.
He explained that it was a miracle that nobody died that day.
“My uncle lost his home and his two vehicles. We had no place to go and eventually the Prime Minister at that time Basdeo Panday provided starter homes for the villagers at Buen Intento,” Hassanali said.
He noted that the recent events at Piparo seem to mirror what happened in the past.
“We are very concerned because we still have extended family who lives in Piparo. We want to make sure that everyone is safe,” Hassanali added.
He advised all residents to pack a bag with their valuable documents and medicine in the event they have to run. Hassanali said he believed the eruption will occur and all residents and State agencies must be ready to deal with the emergency and ensure there are no casualties.