Safety measures for volcano

Various safety measures have been taken to monitor the volcanic activity of Saba’s Mount Scenery and to deal effectively with a possible disaster. This writes The Daily Herald. A second and third seismic metre will be installed in June this year, as well as a Global Positioning System (GPS) later this year. A disaster management plan is in place and regular disaster exer-cises are held.

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated this in response to written questions submitted by Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Wassila Hachchi of the Democratic Party D66. Hachchi had asked the minister for clarity, following media reports, about increased activities of Mount Scenery.Minister Plasterk explained that there has been a seismic metre in Saba since 2006, and that indeed there have been occasional interruptions in monitoring due to power disruptions or problems with the internet as happened in June and August 2014.

According to Plasterk, 75 per cent of the collected data arrived at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI and distributed to local seismic centres since 2006. He acknowledged that for solid monitoring continuous data was of importance, and that stability of the internet connection and electricity supply were essential in this. “Measures will be taken to increase the availability of collected data,” he stated.

KNMI checked on a daily basis whether the data from Saba had arrived in the Netherlands. “Immediate action is taken if this is not the case,” stated Plasterk, who confirmed that the current seismic metre in St. John’s was operational. He announced that two additional seismic metres will be installed in June this year, while a GPS installation will be put in place later this year to measure the possible “swelling” of the volcano.

In his letter, Plasterk also addressed safety and disaster management, issues that were raised by Member of Parliament (MP) Hachchi in her set of written questions. The island disaster team, chaired by Island Governor Jonathan Johnson as the commander-in-chief, immediately gathers in the event that the KNMI registers increased volcanic activity, he explained. In such event, the disaster management plan goes into effect.The Island Governor re-mained commander-in-chief in the case that more than one public entity or island was involved in the disaster despite the coordinating role that the National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoor-diger) would attain in such a case. The National Government Representative, who is always informed in cases of (natural) disasters, will get in direct contact with the involved Dutch ministries.

Plasterk stated that Johnson and himself, as well as his colleagues, the Ministers of Infrastructure and Environment, Security and Justice, and Defence were “logically concerned about the hypothetical possibility of a volcanic eruption” on Saba.

Assistance for defence and the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard in St. Maarten and Curaçao will be available in case of a (natural) disaster. These organisations will also assist in case of an evacuation, as well as private organisations with aircraft. Other countries in the region may also be asked to assist. A first, rapid response with small equipment is possible within a few hours, stated Plasterk. The National Government will become involved if the available equipment in the Caribbean proves to be insufficient. It will take at least one to two days before the first assistance units from the Netherlands can be present on location to support with an evacuation.

The minister clarified that the Netherlands had no formal cooperation ties in the region, but that the contacts between Dutch and French Defence in the Caribbean were solid. French and Dutch defence units will train together at the annual Hurricane Exercise HUREX in the Windward Islands in June this year. The aspect of evacuation will be included in this exercise. A disaster management training week will take place in Saba in May 2015. Similar exercises were held last year.

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