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Summit of Soufriere still off-limits

Summit of Soufriere still off-limits
VOLCANO MONITORING team at the summit of the volcano (file photo prior to explosive eruptions)

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DIRECTOR of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) Michelle Forbes, says the summit of La Soufriere volcano would be off limits for some time.

She noted also during VC3’s Round Table Talk show on Wednesday that access to the summit is problematic as a team tried to get to the top to complete the summit monitoring station on Wednesday but was unsuccessful because of the volume of debris on the path.

“During the eruption tons of material would have come down, tons of hot material, and it means that a lot of this hot material is buried under material upon material.

“On Sunday we traversed on the Leeward side going up to Fancy via boat, and you can still see the steaming in the valleys, which means that there is hot material, hot deposits deep under the surface so it is extremely dangerous for persons who want to try to venture into those areas,” Forbes stressed.

She said that to understand the types of deposits she is talking about, “you have to really see it” as some of the gullies she has seen when she went up in a helicopter a few days ago, have between 50 to 80 feet of material that can be washed down into the valleys.

Forbes said she is grateful there are no communities on the side where the majority of material is built up, but she is also concerned about the east side of the volcano which also has debris that can affect communities.

“These areas are generally still unsafe. You may be walking and think you are walking on solid ground and then the material underneath is hot, and if your feet get down there then it can harm you,” Forbes said.

She noted also that their greatest concern is the Windward side of the island in terms of lahars.

“Lahars would go down on the western flank and the western course…as I said there are no built up communities there, but above the Rabacca that is where they can be quite deadly,” Forbes said while noting that they have seen lahars from Rabacca northwards especially in Sandy Bay, whenever there is heavy rainfall.

“We have to recognise that going forward some of these communities in these areas when the lahars and pyroclastic flows have come down you may not be able to rebuild there,” Forbes said.

The NEMO head also said that people need to get it in their heads that it can’t just be business as usual when constructing houses…as some of these areas are “dry rivers” and they expand after eruptions and become very wide.

“If you look at London there, and Pepper Village, you can see the destruction across those areas…,” Forbes noted while adding that communities above the dry river need to plan to survive on their own for a period, because at some point they are going to be cut off.

“When there is heavy rainfall you are going to get all the rivers coming down from Noel going upwards. Even at Overland we have a river there…but it means each community is going to be isolated.

“Sandy Bay is going to be cut off from Owia, Owia is going to be cut off from Fancy, we saw that last week during the passage of Hurricane Elsa,” Forbes said.

She also urged persons not to go into areas above the Rabacca Dry river to site see when it rains as this is an extremely dangerous practice since vehicles can become stuck and areas not before seen as river ways, are now pathways for lahars.

She said that while some of these areas are still restricted, several persons have moved back because they are not comfortable remaining away from home for such a long time.