Tsunami after volcanic eruption unlikely – Kick ‘em Jenny: no reason for panic

POSTED: 07/27/15 7:13 PM



St. Maarten – The orange alert the University of the West Indies issued for increased activity of the submarine volcano Kick ‘em Jenny is no reason for panic. At least, if we go by a statement from the director of the coastal zone management unit in Barbados, Dr. Lorna Innis who told the Antillean Media Group (AMG) that the probability of a tsunami following a volcanic eruption is low.

A very large tsunami could reach St. Maarten within an hour and a half after an eruption. The probability of a tsunami is “low but not non-existent,” Innis told the AMG. “The chances of a tsunami generating from an underwater volcano increases the closer the volcano’s dome is to the surface of the water.”

Kick ‘em Jenny’s dome is approximately 180 meters underwater.

“An eruption of Kick ‘m Jenny can cause a tsunami,” Innis said, “”but we are dealing with possibilities. The dome of the volcano is in extremely deep water at this stage. As the dome grows – and it grows extremely slowly over decades and centuries – it moves closer to the surface. That increases the probability that you will have a tsunami when it erupts. At this point in time the probability is rather low.”

Kick ‘em Jenny is located 8 kilometers north of Grenada. The Seismic Research Center of the University of the West Indies has recommended that the governments of Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago advise their residents about evacuation routes and to put transport on standby to facilitate evacuation.

Whether these measures make any sense remains to be seen, because a tsunami triggered by Kick ‘em Jenny would reach Grenada within minutes, St. Vincent within ten minutes, Martinique and Tobago within 30 minutes and Barbados within 40 minutes.

A very large tsunami could reach the coast of Venezuela and the Leeward Islands to the south and Puerto Rico (and therefore St. Maarten and surrounding islands) within an hour and a half.

The orange alert the Seismic Research Center issued is a warning that a volcanic eruption could happened within 24 hours. So far, it has been a false alarm.

Kick ‘em Jenny last erupted on December 4, 2001 and it has erupted twelve times since 1939.

The University of the West Indies notes on its website that volcanic eruptions are deadlier than hurricanes. “No hurricane has ever completely destroyed the capital of an eastern Caribbean island, while volcanic eruptions have done so twice,” the center states on its website.

The first time this happened was more than a hundred years ago, in 1902, when St. Pierre in Martinique was destroyed. The second event is more recent: in 1997 the Soufrière volcano on Montserrat destroyed Plymouth.

Property destruction caused by hurricanes is usually 10 to 25 percent. The destruction by volcanic eruptions in total – one hundred percent.

Over the past 300 years, volcanoes have caused more than 30,000 deaths in the Eastern Caribbean. Earthquakes and hurricanes each caused around 15,000 casualties and tsunamis so far just 50.

When the Soufrière Hills volcano erupted in 1997, 20 people died. It destroyed the island’s capital Plymouth completely along with its economy. Economic costs were in excess of $500 million, according to estimates.

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