Friday, June 03, 2005

Geologists study the possible link between eruption and tsunami

Indian geologists will study molten rock samples from a volcano on a tiny island in the Bay of Bengal to find out if last week's eruption could be traced to December's earthquake and tsunami, experts said on Wednesday.

The volcano on an uninhabited island in the tsunami-hit Andaman and Nicobar archipelago has been spewing smoke, dust and lava since Saturday. Indian authorities said there was no immediate threat to the environment and marine life.

A team of scientists from the state-run Geological Survey of India (GSI) is leaving this week for Barren Island to collect lava samples, GSI officials said.

"Volcanoes and earthquakes happen independent of each other, but there is scope for studying the link in this case," M.K. Mukhopadhyay, a GSI deputy director-general, told Reuters.

Another senior GSI scientist said the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami caused "re-adjustment of lithospheric plates" that might have disturbed lava pockets and caused the volcanic eruptions.
"There is no thumb rule that earthquakes cause volcanoes or vice-versa. But we can study whether the crustal re-adjustment caused by the tsunami disturbed the earth's crust," said the scientist, who did not want to be identified.

The volcano, India's only active one, was throwing up molten rocks and gas up to 90 ft in the air but there was no immediate threat to the environment or marine life, said D.S. Negi, chief administrator of the Andaman islands.

The Andaman and Nicobar islands are situated on an undersea fault that continues to Indonesia to the south. The island chain has experienced hundreds of aftershocks following the powerful undersea earthquake that caused the Dec. 26 tsunami.

Officials say more than 430 people were killed and at least 3,000 are still missing after the tsunami slammed into the archipelago. But voluntary groups say the death toll could be much higher.

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