By Staff Writer
Volcanologists and residents of the islands of St Vincent and Martinique are keeping a close watch on heightened activity on the volcanoes of those Eastern Caribbean islands.
Both St Vincent’s La Soufriere and Martinique’s Mt Pelee have been put on high alert levels following increased activity at their irrespective sites which started in December.
Of main concern is the continued growth of a new dome which emerged in December at St Vincent’s La Soufriere which is located in the mainly agricultural northern section of the island, miles away from the capital Kingstown.
With the dome continuing to grow after what volcanologists at the Seismic Centre of the University of the West Indies call an “effusive eruption within the crater, with visible gas and steam”, residents of the surrounding area have been advised to be on standby for possible evacuation at short notice.
The team from the UWI are also being assisted by volcanologists from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory who have accumulated vast expertise from their work monitoring the still-active volcano on the British Overseas Territory.
Montserrat’s Soufriere Hills volcano completely destroyed the island’s capital and forced the evacuation of the southern two-thirds of the island during its explosive eruptive phase between 1995 and 2010.
According to UWI’s Seismic Research Center at the University of the West Indies, there has been no explosive eruption at La Soufrière so far, but magma reaching the surface is forming a new growing dome crater.
In recent reports the UWI said the rate of growth of this second dome has slowed slightly.
That volcano last erupted in 1979 forcing the evacuation of over 20,000 people. A previous eruption in 1902 killed over 1,500 people.
Meanwhile, in Martinique, a French Overseas Territory located two islands north of St Vincent, authorities there have also stepped up monitoring of its Mt. Pelée after it also showed increased seismic activity.
Martinique´s Volcanological and Seismological Observatory have put an Orange Alert in place, similar to the situation in St Vincent.
It was the first alert of its kind issued since Mt Pelee last erupted in 1932.
A previous eruption also in 1902 killed more than 29,000 people and is regarded as the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century.
However, experts monitoring both volcanoes have stressed that the recent events are not linked.