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Seismologist: Recent earthquakes may be linked

Published: 
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Seismologist at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Centre, Dr Joan Lutchman, says recent earthquakes could have contributed to the eruption of the Devil’s Woodyard mud volcano, which had stayed dormant for 22 years before yesterday’s eruptions.

In an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Lutchman said the seismic team visited the site in Hindustan to do more research. However, she said the UWI Geological Unit was the authority to make pronouncements on the volcano.

Asked whether the recent earthquakes to hit T&T had spurred on the volcanic activity, Lutchman said this was a possibility, as tectonic activity can affect volcanoes.

“Earthquakes and volcanic activity are indeed connected. In this case it is a possibility, but more research has to be done because we have not had a lot of these phenomenons to make a detailed pronouncement,” Lutchman said.

Members of the Geological Unit stayed at the volcanic site for several hours yesterday. Up to late last evening there were no more eruptions, but residents said they had already packed bags in case they needed to make a quick exit.

The volcano first erupted in 1852, shaking the entire village and felling tall trees. Villagers at the time believed that the Devil had come from beneath the earth to fell the woods and this was how the area became known as Devil’s Woodyard.

In 1993, it was adopted as a recreational site by the Princes Town Regional Corporation, but two years later, in 1995, it erupted again, causing sulphuric dirt to cover the picnic sheds. The site became run down over the years but was again upgraded.

No facilities were destroyed in the latest eruption, which residents say was worse than the one in 1995. The site continues to bring in revenue for the corporation, as it is rented to churches and other groups for recreation.

According to the earthquake tracker website https://earthquaketrack.com/p/trinidad-and-tobago/recent, T&T has experienced seven earthquakes in the last 30 days. The last occurred two days ago, a 4.2 magnitude quake at a 50 km depth. Eighteen days ago, another 4.9 magnitude earthquake occurred in the Point Fortin region at a 32 km depth.

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