Residents living in fear: New mud volcano forms, erupts in Cascadoux Trace, Mayaro

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

ERUPTION: Rakesh Seecheran stoops by the dried mud which is located walking distance from his home after a new mud volcano formed and erupted in Cascadoux Trace, Mayaro on Thursday. He and his family have since been evacuated. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

GEOLOGICAL assessments are expected to begin on Saturday on a vent that appeared and erupted, spewing hot mud several feet into the air, on Thursday afternoon in Cascadoux Trace, Mayaro approximately 800 feet from an existing mud volcano. The eruption forced residents from two households to evacuate.

The assessment will be spearheaded by geologist Xavier Moonan who is also the Exploration Manager at Touchstone Exploration. He has previously done work on mud volcanoes, even discovering six along the country’s south western coast in 2020.

In 2019 he worked with state agencies when new cracks formed at the Piparo mud volcano which also forcing residents to evacuate. Moonan told Newsday the entire area where the eruption took place, rests on top of a mud volcano. This, he said, is particularly risky for residents.

“Like Piparo, the Cascadoux mud volcano poses a high risk due to the close proximity of the village to the active vent area of the mud volcano. Apart from the Piparo mud volcano, the Cascadoux mud volcano is the only other onshore mud volcano that occurs in such extreme close proximity to a village.

“Living on a mud volcano is dangerous anyhow you spell it. It will eventually erupt…big or small. Massive pressure is being released. Many people like to stick poles in the vents, sometimes excavate mud from the volcanoes and in so doing, they clog the vents which causes pressure to keep building below ground instead of being naturally released. This is one way we can be encouraging new break-out vents.”

Moonan said during his assessment on Saturday, he will be looking for subtle deformations such as cracks, faults or fractures between the traditional vent and the new one.

Newsday visited the Cascadoux Trace site on Friday. There were representatives from the fire service, police, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), and the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation and its disaster management unit.

Around 6 pm on Thursday, residents reported a new vent being formed near the home of Rakesh Seecheran, shooting mud approximately 15 feet into the air and accompanied by strange rumbling noises.

Acting Assistant CFO (Southern Division) Mukharji Rampersad speaks with reporters near the mud volcano. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

Acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer (Southern Division) Mukharji Rampersad said two households comprising 11 people were evacuated and the area cordoned off. Though the activity subsided later on Thursday night, he said there were reports of new activity on Friday.

Rampersad said the Mayaro Civic Centre is being outfitted to accommodate displaced residents until the geological risk assessment is completed.

Rampersad said the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) visited the site and determined there was no, at that point in time, flammable or poisonous gases emitted from the vent.

Residents said they fear for their safety. A woman told Newsday she and her family are worried about the newly formed vent.

She said apart from two openings at Cascadoux Trace, there is also another vent in the sea near Point Radix.

“All volcanoes are connected in Trinidad so when you hear one erupt, obviously you’d be worried because you want to know if the one in the sea will give trouble now. If it erupts, I worry that there could be a tsunami,” she said.

With the new vent mere feet from his home, Seecheran told Newsday he no longer feels safe and hopes he, his wife and their two children can be relocated.