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Last Thursday amateur video showed what initially looked like heightened volcanic activity in the hills of Soufriere in the south western part of Dominica that prompted emergency reaction by the Office of Disaster Management (ODM).

"A visit to the area earlier today showed nothing unusual. Thus, there appears to be no cause for panic at this point," the ODM reported on Thursday, 17 September.

That was confirmed in a radio programme a day later, on Friday morning, in a simulcast on all local radio stations, by Dr. Pat Joseph the head of The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWISRC).

"We clearly saw that a landslide had taken place," said Dr. Joseph. "This is not unusual. Dominica and the other islands are prone to landslides."

Earlier in an update, the ODM said: "The Soufriere area is noted for its hydrothermal activity, which is usually manifested as surface degassing, primarily of steam. The volcanic origin of the soil, in addition to the hydrothermal weathering in the area, has created conditions favouring landslides.

"The ODM took photos and drone footage of the area which were provided to the Seismic Research Centre (SRC).

"Based on information supplied by the ODM, the SRC team determined that the recent activity in the Soufriere area is likely the result of a landslide in the area, followed by subsequent re-settling of the near surface hydrothermal activity with associated strong steam degassing.

"There have been no associated volcanic earthquakes recorded in the area by the SRC network on the island. The SRC therefore believes that a change in volcanic activity has not contributed to this event.

"It is possible that the area may still be unstable and additional landslides may occur with continued steam degassing.

"The ODM and SRC will continue to monitor the area. Public access to the area should be limited".

Dominicans have been living with the threat of volcanoes for many years. Nine of the Caribbean's sixteen active volcanoes are located on the island. By contrast there is one each on Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Montserrat, Saba, St. Eustacius, St. Kitts, and Nevis. There are two in Grenada, writes Dr. Thompson Fontaine on his site, The Dominican.net.

"Dominica's nine active volcanoes are: Morne au Diable, Morne Trois Pitons, Morne Diablotins, Morne Watts, Morne Anglais, Wotten Waven Caldera, Valley of Desolation, Grande Soufriere Hills and Morne Plat Pays.

"The youngest dated volcanic deposits on the island are associated with the Morne Patates dome on the flanks of the large active Plat Pays Volcano that comprises the southwestern end of the island. This was a Pelean eruption (similar to the eruptions of Mt. Pelee on Martinique in 1902 and 1929) and radiocarbon ages from the block and ash deposits suggest it occurred about 500 year ago.

"In addition, there have been two steam explosions (phreatic activity) in the Valley of Desolation in 1880 and 1997. Frequent seismic swarms and vigorous and widespread geothermal activity today characterize the island. In fact, it is the most worrying of all the Caribbean volcanic areas and there is a general feeling that it (like Montserrat pre-1995) is long overdue for an eruption. Scientists are predicting that there will be at least one major eruption within the next 100 years".


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