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Wednesday 22 January 2020
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Remote monitoring for Piparo volcano

Eric Mackie (right) explains the routes out of Piparo in the case of a volcanic eruption. - Seeta Persad
Eric Mackie (right) explains the routes out of Piparo in the case of a volcanic eruption. - Seeta Persad

Regional director of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Eric Mackie, has told Piparo residents that plans are on the way for the mud volcano to be monitored remotely to ensure an early warning if the volcano erupts.

Mackie was addressing residents at a meeting at the Piparo Community Centre on Saturday. “The ODPM has also requested the purchase of four sirens to be placed at strategic points around the community so that in the case of an eruption, residents can raise the alarm for others to evacuate the area.”

This, he said could be set up within a month if all goes well. The ODPM team expressed disappointment that only 12 villagers showed up at the centre for this safety briefing.

Mackie said, “After extensive training, 11 persons were chosen for handling any crisis in Piparo and not a single member of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) showed up.” The Piparo mud volcano may have gone silent, he said, but this should not lull residents into a false sense of security.

Despite the absence of key community personnel, he said the ODPM and various arms of national security were prepared to work out the final details of the Emergency Response Contingency Plan.

ODPM Planning and Development officer Anwar Baksh gave several scenarios and asked residents to explain what could be done in the event of these emergencies. The few residents present expressed disappointment at the response by the authorities.

Jainup Mohammed said 20 tonnes of hotmix promised by Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein never materialised. “The roads are in a very deplorable condition and there is no way residents can escape within quick time if the volcano erupts,” Mohammed said.

Baksh said that the plan was for residents to seek shelter within their community and not necessarily leave the village. Mackie said that in an emergency, there is a term called "shelter in position," which means that once an area is safe within a community, residents can stay in that zone.

“We do not want residents to become victims by trying to help a victim who is in distress,” he said. Baksh told residents that they have their "get ready to go" bags and they should learn the escape routes out of Piparo in case of an emergency.

On September 21, the mud volcano situated in the heart of Piparo showed signs of heightened activity leading to major cracks developing on the road and damage to nearby houses. Since then, fumes have been hissing from the volcano's many fissures.

The last major eruption of the mud volcano took place 22 years ago and hundreds of residents were affected. Many were eventually relocated.

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