Authorities tell Barbadians be calm amid volcano threat
With the likelihood of an eruption by undersea volcano Kick ‘em Jenny located close to Grenada, Government today advised residents to monitor the situation and not to panic.
Also saying there was no need for coastal residents to evacuate at this time, acting Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), Dr Lorna Inniss reiterated calls by Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite and acting Director of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) Dr Kerry Hinds for residents to stay vigilant.
The three senior officials spoke at a hastily-called news conference this afternoon after the island’s alert level was raised to “Orange”, signalling increased activity by Kick ‘em Jenny.
“The Research Centre of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad has notified the islands of Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad that we have been placed on Orange alert,” said Hinds.
“An Orange alert means that there are highly elevated levels of seismic activity. This is as a result of the elevated levels of activity at the Kick ‘em Jenny submarine volcano, and this is located at 12 degrees north, 61 degrees west or eight kilometers north of Grenada,” she added.
Residents were further assured that the possibility of a tsunami was quite low, given that the volcano’s dome was buried deep underwater. However, officials did not rule out the possibility that a tsunami could occur given the recent upsurge in earthquake activity.
“At this stage, we are not under a tsunami alert of any kind. The Orange alert, as mentioned, is purely because of the increased seismic activity and the possibility of an eruption. Just remember we are dealing with probabilities. And so when we say that there is the possibility of an eruption within 24 hours, it doesn’t mean that Kick ‘em Jenny will erupt, or that it will erupt within 24 hours either. These are all probabilities, and therefore over the next few hours, days or weeks, as this Orange alert remains, we want to be as vigilant as possible,” Inniss said.
The CZMU head emphasized that until seismic activity returned to normal levels, the possibility of an eruption existed. “Now, can the eruption cause a tsunami? Yes. The dome of the volcano is in extremely deep water at this stage. As the dome grows, however, which it does over time … and the closer to the surface it comes, the greater the probability that when it erupts, you will have a tsunami,” she explained.
In view of several earthquakes – the largest of which occurred last Thursday measuring 6.5 and felt by the entire country – Inniss issued a special warning to coastal residents to remain vigilant.
“I also think that it is a good time to review the plan that we have as organizations [and] households. We need to review what we would do if a particular event occurred. Coastal residents would need to be particularly vigilant, because the threat of a tsunami is not non-existent,” she cautioned.
The acting DEM Director also warned that tremors were likely to continue, as well as the volcanic activity related to the Kick ‘em Jenny.
Earlier, representatives of the island’s emergency services met behind closed doors at the DEM’s Warrens, St Michael office. Dr Hinds called on the country to stay tuned to the media for updates on the volcano. She said that ships operating in the region had been put on notice of an exclusion zone within which they should not sail.
At the same news conference, Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite urged citizens not to panic but to be vigilant and listen for further updates.
Meanwhile, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital this afternoon announced the temporary relocation of the Accident and Emergency Department in response to the Orange alert.
“While we have been advised that there is no threat of a tsunami at this time, the management of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has taken . . . precautionary measures to ensure that selected services are not compromised,” the hospital said in a statement.
As a result of the relocation, the A&E Department is operating from the Antenatal Clinic which has cancelled all appointments scheduled for tomorrow.
“All patients . . . will be advised of a new appointment date when further information is available about the change in the level of alert. However, any antenatal patients with urgent medical problems as well as those who are either at or passed their delivery dates should seek care on the Labour Ward located on B1 or 2nd floor of the hospital,” the statement said.
All other services at the hospital remain unaffected.