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World News

Volcanic Caribbean island of Dominica shaken by explosion of steam and gas

CASTRIES, St Lucia (Reuters) - An explosion of steam and gas in the mountains of the remote, jungle-clad Caribbean island of Dominica has shaken residents, who are fearful it is a harbinger for renewed seismic activity in a nation that is home to nine volcanoes.

The Dominica Office of Disaster Management and the Seismic Research team said the activity in the Soufriere area on Wednesday was likely the result of a landslide, followed by subsequent geological adjustments.

In a statement, the office’s coordinator Fitzroy Pascal said there had been no volcanic earthquakes recorded in the area associated with “the strong steam degassing.”

“It is possible that the area may still be unstable and that additional landslides may occur with continued steam degassing,” Pascal said.

Dominica last suffered major phreatic or steam-drive volcanic eruptions in 1997, and before that in 1880.

Soufriere resident Lynthia Bellot said that residents were worried by the activity, after a series of small tremors in 2018 and 2019.

“A lot of residents are concerned, I was taken aback and I was like, if it is a landslide why is smoke coming out? I still do not understand it, I still do not get it,” she said.

Memories are fresh in Dominica of Hurricane Maria, which in 2017 killed 65 people and ruined housing stock and infrastructure, while some of the island’s oldest trees were destroyed.

Reporting by Sarah Peter; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Grant McCool

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