The fractures around the Piparo volcano are continuing to widen while increased gaseous emissions are being recorded by geoscientists who are monitoring the volcano on a weekly basis.
In preparation for an impending eruption, all State agencies met for a planning session at the Piparo Community Centre on Thursday.
The agencies included the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), University of the West Indies geoscientist, T&TEC, Southwest Regional Health Authority, Housing Development Corporation, T&T Defense Force, T&T Police Service, Ministry of Works, T&T Fire Service, Environmental Management Authority, Land Settlement Agency, Regional Corporations, Red Cross and the Piparo Village Council.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Penelope Bradshaw-Niles said the meeting was fruitful as all agencies were able to indicate what resources were available in the event of an eruption.
“We will develop a total evacuation plan for the long term. The plan is not fully completed, we have a draft outline based on the research that was done by UWI. The next step is that everyone will submit their inputs, collate and we will do a tabletop exercise to simulate what the response will be in case of an eruption,” Bradshaw-Niles said.
Chief Executive Officer of the Office of Disaster Preparedness Major General (Ret’d) Rodney Smart said if the volcano erupted, he was confident that all agencies were in place to render assistance to the villagers.
Asked whether evacuation plans were in place, Smart said, “Evacuation is dependent on whether you have an eruption. We cannot predict how soon but we have people from the University of the West Indies and the Petroleum Studies Unit who are doing scientific monitoring. If something should happen they will give us early warnings to put things in place,” he added.
Smart further said that after all the agencies give their written inputs, the plan will move from “a virtual plan to an actual plan.”
He said based on the information supplied by the geoscientists, there was a need to have more frequent monitoring of the volcanic activities.
Guardian Media’s photographer Rishi Ragoonath braved rain and mud to get to the mouth of the volcano where gaping cracks with bubbling mud were seen.
Senior geoscientist at Touchstone Exploration Xavier Moonan said they were working on getting the proper equipment to monitor the volcano.
He said, right now there are only weekly updates but with new equipment, there can be updates every minute.
Asked to explain recent developments with the volcano, Moonan said, “Our seismic tomography tests showed significant changes in the subsurface compared to surveys we ran previously, and ties with our surface observations. We will continue to acquire more data as often as possible with the equipment we have until the real-time monitoring equipment is installed.”
Moonan said yesterday’s meeting was very fruitful, “All agencies have had their input into the generation of a sound evacuation plan for the villagers of Piparo. The details of this will be disclosed to the villagers on Saturday.”
He added, “ This meeting helped to get everyone aware of each other’s role, capacity, and limitations and generally to get everyone on the same page, for a disaster which can very well directly affect approximately 30 households.”
Moonan noted that the ODPM will be syncing efforts and coordinating multiple ministries and agencies to ensure that there are no casualties when the eruption occurs.