La Soufrière Update #39: Acidic Gases Can Cause Respiratory, Corrosive Harm To Humans

The La Soufrière seen from Rose Hill, St. Vincent on the 9yj March 2021 (Lennox Lampkin)

Present La Soufrière Alert Level:REDAn eruption is in progress or may begin without further warning.

The National Emergency Management Organization, in their latest bulletin, advised that the gas coming from the dome continues to cause damage to vegetation in the hillside areas on the south-western side of the volcano. These gases have become more acidic and have the capacity to cause respiratory harm to human beings, which can result in unconsciousness and even asphyxiation. There can also be a corrosive effect on the skin and eyes, even with short exposure. It is imperative, therefore, to avoid site seeing at the La Soufrière Volcano.

No new data is available on the gas coming from the volcano but the ongoing outflow of magma onto the crater floor continues with periodic changes in the rate of dome growth.

The monitoring team visited the La Soufrière Volcano last week for visual observations and a drone survey of the dome. Another visit was made to the hot springs on the Wallibou River for water sampling, gas, and temperature measurements. Measurements were also undertaken of carbon dioxide in the soil along the Wallibou riverbed.

Photos of equipment, UWI-SRC staff and team at work prior to and during their deployment to SVG to boost the monitoring capabilities of La Soufrière, SVG.

Posted by UWI Seismic Research Centre on Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Clear weather conditions at the top of the volcano allowed for aerial photographs to be taken, but no new volumes were obtained due to technical problems with the images. Visual observations of the inside of the volcano during the visit confirmed that slow dome growth continues, with the south-eastern front of the dome now in line with the pre-existing fumarole on the 1979 dome.

Work has continued at the Belmont Observatory, on the installation of the seismic data acquisition system.

There is NO ‘explosive’ eruption at the La Soufrière volcano at this time. La Soufrière continues to have effusive eruptions as hot magma reaches the surface at extreme temperatures. This appears in the night as fire or a bright red glow above the crater. As the dome gets higher and closer to the crater’s rim, this phenomenon will continue to be visible on clear nights.

The alert level remains at Orange. The volcano continues to exude magma on the surface and steam can still be observed from the Belmont Observatory. Persons living in areas close to the volcano should expect strong sulfur smells for several days to weeks, depending on changes in wind direction.

The NEMO is reminding the public that no evacuation order or notice has been issued. NEMO continues to appeal to the public to desist from visiting the La Soufrière Volcano and especially going into the crater since doing so is extremely dangerous.

The @uwiseismic and NEMO continue to advise access to the #LaSoufriere Volcano is strictly prohibited at this time….

Posted by Trinidad and Tobago Weather Center on Thursday, January 14, 2021

According to the SRC, the new volcanic dome is extremely dangerous for those in close proximity as it can explode at any time without warning. People have been killed in this way. This warning comes as images from a birthday photoshoot surfaced on social media.

Volcanic Hazard Map for the La Soufrière Volcano, St. Vincent (UWI SRC/NEMO)
Volcanic Hazard Map for the La Soufrière Volcano, St. Vincent (UWI SRC/NEMO)

Official information will originate from St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Emergency Management Organization and the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center.

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