Savo Islanders on High Alert

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BY JOHN HOUANIHAU

ALTHOUGH people of Savo are continuing with their normal lives, the Seismology Unit of the Geological Survey Division in Honiara had cautioned them to remain alert after an earthquake triggered some minor seismic activities from the volcano at around 2-6pm on Wednesday 28 July 2021.

Environment media Solomon Islands understands that following the seismic activity, the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) in collaboration with Geological Survey Division had issued a volcano safety message to communities in and around Savo.

Savo Island, Solomon Islands on August 3, 2021. Image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, TW

Jack Humphrey who is from Mbonala village in south Savo, told Environment Media that it is a new experience for most of them young people.

“So far, living in the Island is continuing as normal and geologist and responsible authorities has already come around here and collected needed information since Wednesday 28 July.

“However events like small earthquakes are still frequently felt and one can still see smoke coming out from the volcano’s vent,” Humphrey confirmed.

He said the geological division has urged the people not to go near the crater or areas surrounding it for risk of poisonous air or gas.

He further added that the people are relying heavily on Seismology Unit of the Geological Survey Division for latest updates about the ongoing seismic activities.

“Ongoing preparedness awareness and safety messages is also passed and conducted in communities around the Island by community leaders on what to do plus sharing information issued by the authorities.

Humphrey revealed that at the moment, due to fear, several families have sent some of the vulnerable ones in their family such as children and old people to relatives in Honiara.

“In terms of evacuation sites, there are several sites around the Islands which have been identified just in case there is danger. People had been informed of these sites,” He said.

The young lad in the meantime calls on the general public and those in Savo to avoid passing invalid or wrong information which will cause panic to relatives, the general public or islanders in Savo itself.

According to the Government through the Seismology Unit of the Geological Survey Division (GSD) of the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification (MMERE), and the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) at the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) are closely, and continuously monitoring the ongoing volcanic activities on Savo Island using real time data from the seismic station located on the crater of the Volcano.

A statement by GSD and NEOC confirmed that on Friday 30th July 2021 a joint technical assessment team from GSD and NDMO were deployed to Savo to conduct rapid assessment and verify the reported observations by the communities.

“The team assessed the crater the volcano and its surrounding environment. The team also assessed the seismic station located at the crater of the volcano and noted steam, water vapour and gaseous emissions indicating possible fissure activities within the crator. The technical experts also conduct community consultations with the people and communities on the Island.

 Officers from GSD and locals doing assessment work. Photo Supplied.

“Under the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management arrangement the Geology and Survey Division is the hazards advisor on seismic and volcanic hazards working at the National Emergency Operations Center.

“The National Disaster Operations Committee (N-DOC) of the National Disaster Council (NDC) have been briefed by the technical experts on the preliminary findings of the technical rapid assessment in an emergency meeting late on Saturday night chaired by the head of the NDC and attended by the N-DOC Sector Committees including the head of the Central Islands Provincial Disaster Committee (CIP – P-DOC) and the CIP Provincial Disaster Office.

“The preliminary field based findings in conjunction with  scientific observation data, community observations and traditional knowledge have confirmed actual increased volcanic seismic activities on Savo.

“The NDC through the N-DOC Sector Committees and the CIP P-DOC Sector Committees are being activated on standby mode (preparedness to respond) and to immediately action the priority recommendations by the technical assessment.

“The preparedness response action by the N-DOC and CIP-PDOC are important due to the explosive characteristics of the Savo volcano which has the potential of discharging block and ash, and pyroclastic flows (gaseous, hot pieces and debris of rock and ash).  

“It is understood that from recorded history and traditional accounts, the Savo Volcano has known to be active from the late 1400s, 1500s and the last eruption occurred between 1830–1845 with past and recent scientific studies determined that the Savo Volcano could become active again after 200 – 300 years of being dormant.

“The NEOC in collaboration with the GSD will continue to monitor and  deploy monitoring technical teams to the island as well as issuing Volcano Safety Messages for Savo Island and surrounding areas,” the gov’t statement said.


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