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Piton de la Fournaise volcano (La Réunion), activity update: lava flows into the sea, eruption continues

ma, 9 apr 2007, 19:35

The eruption at Piton de la Fournaise volcano continues and eruptive activity, lava fountains and lava flow emissions from the fissure vent at 600-500 m elevation, increases.

Lava flows had already crossed the National Road in the afternoon of 2 April and the southernmost of the 3 principal lava flow branches reached the sea in the evening the same day.
After decreasing for a while, an unusual increase in seismic activity has been observed since 3 April. It is marked by earthquakes below the summit of the volcano at altitudes between 0 and 500 m above sea level, similar to the ones registered before the opening of the fissure on 30 March SE of the summit. They are interpreted as consequence of internal collapse phenomena and might be preceding a collapse event similar or stronger than the one in 1986 when a 100 m deep pit crater was formed. 
At the same time, tremor (thought to be caused by the erupting magma moving along the conduit and the radial dike) has increased as well, accompanied by increasing visual effusive activity.
In addition, a marked increase in sulphur dioxide emission has been noted. Inhabitants in the nearby city of St. Pierre have been suffering from "vog" - volcanic smog caused by clouds of aerosols rich in sulphur dioxide (SO2) emitted mainly at the eruptive vent and from the lava flows. Several people have been brought to hospital for treatment of skin and eye irriations as well as asthma caused by the gas whose concentration temporarily reached alarming levels, triggering the govenor to issue a general health warning for the island.

Reports of a new eruptive fissure near the Pointe du Tremblet with its inhabited centers in the lower areas just outside of the Enclos turned out to be wrong. However, but scientists from the observatory don't exclude the possibility that a new fissure could open up at even lower elevation. Preparations for an emergency evacuation of this area have started since late of 4th of April.
Access to the summit area of the volcano and the low elevation area near the lava flows from the side of St. Pierre has been restricted by authorities.

Source: OVPF and Clicanoo - Journal de l´Ile

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