By Denis McClean
Geneva - The President of the Cape Verde National Civil Protection Service, Arlindo Lima, has warned that the situation on the island of Fogo is likely to get worse in the coming days as volcanic activity continues and lava pours out of the Chã das Caldeiras crater where it has already destroyed two villages.
Mr. Lima reports: “Right now we have three centers of resettlement with about 1,000 people. The forecasts in this area are not good. We may have more than two months of eruption. The number of homeless may be much higher because today we have several villages that are at risk and should be evacuated in the coming days.”
Timely dissemination of early warnings and orderly evacuations have ensured that there has been no loss of life as the island’s fertile centre of coffee and wine production has been rendered uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.
Sharon Rusu, UNISDR Head of Regional Office for Africa, said: “Cape Verde has a good record of implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action, the global blueprint for disaster risk reduction, through its National Civil Protection Service and other agencies.
“This is the second time in twenty years that this volcano has erupted. The fact that again no lives have been lost is proof that local knowledge and understanding of the volcano’s behaviour combined with seismic monitoring stations have served the public well. Unfortunately, economic losses will be heavy. Fogo is a very important producer of farm goods and a centre of wine production. Land use and location are factors in living with risk and sometimes those trade-offs don’t always work out in the long-term.”
The lava flow which has already destroyed the villages of Portela and Banguera is being closely monitored. If it continues on its present course it could pose a threat to three coastal villages: Crovo, Achada Grande and Relva.
Mr. Lima said the island is preparing for 2,000 or more evacuees and needs tents, mattresses, blankets and sheets, kitchen materials, large power generators, lighting equipment. He concluded: “As you know our response capacity is limited and logistically we are not equipped for an emergency of this magnitude. “
The last eruption in 1995 only subsided after 56 days. The current eruption commenced on November 23 last.