Saturday, November 07, 2009

Piton de la Fournaise Volcano, Reunion - John Seach

The short-lived eruption at Piton de la Fournaise volcano is over. For the first time since 2007, lava has flowed outside the crater. The lava flows were widely visible from the shore of Reunion, and by daybreak yesterday only fumaroles were active. Lava flows were no longer active and there was a gradual decrease in the intensity of volcanic tremor. From 5:30 pm on 5th November earthquakes occurred at a rate of one to two per minute, then at 7:30 pm a seismic crisis lasted for an hour, followed by a pause. Around 9 pm volcanic tremor signaled the start of the eruption. The volcano provided a spectacle with lava flows lighting up the sky and attracting attention motorists between St. Philip and Piton Sainte-Rose. Motorists traveling on the road were the first witnesses the lava flow and raise the alarm at 9:15 pm. They described mostly fountains and lava flows. The eruption consisted of multiple lava flows which moved rapidly down the slope. Two fissures appeared to have opened up on the east side near the summit. The police of Saint-Philippe encouraged motorists to be careful and not to park anywhere to watch the eruption. There were no road closures. Residents heard about the eruption on the radio and started to come, but the crowd was not large due to the time of the night. Between 11:10 and 11:15 pm, volcanic tremor had almost disappeared. Up until 12:30 pm about a hundred people stood at the foot of la rampe du Tremblet in the Grand Brûlé and observed the lava flows. On the morning of 6th November at 6:45 am a police helicopter flew over the area. The reconnaissance flight confirmed that two fractures opened between the south and east of the summit crater Dolomieu, which produced lava flows far from the road. The summary from the volcanologists is as follows: at 20.50, the eruption has started in the south cliff inside Dolomieu crater. At 21.05, the crack was extended and opened on the east-southeast near the crater rim of Dolomieu. At 21h20: a second crack opened on the eastern slope of the summit cone. Two lava flows were visible on the flanks of Piton de la Fournaise. The volcano has been plunged into a relative calm. The situation remains unstable. A second eruption may start at any time warned scientists from the volcano observatory.
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