Since Saturday, March 19 at 4:05 pm, a seismic-volcanic crisis continues on São Jorge.
Since then, there were more than 14,000 tremors in the municipality of Velas. This is more than twice as much as on all Azores islands in the entire year 2021. More than 200 of them were felt by people in São Jorge.
The risk level is currently defined as V4, which means a real threat of a volcanic eruption. (The highest level, V5, represents an ongoing eruption.)
The tremors are in the area of the active rift zone, where two powerful eruptions have already taken place after the settlement of the island. I wrote about it in the article „Seismic tremors on São Jorge„.
There are already the best specialists in volcanology on São Jorge, more firefighters, civil protection services and soldiers have arrived as well.
There are checked, among others vibrations, their type, frequency (currently lower), depth (now around 6-15 km below the ground), magnitude, terrain deformation (unluckily already observed), amount of carbon dioxide escaping from under the ground (not observed).
Two scenarios are still valid: there may be an earthquake and there may be a volcanic eruption. (There may also happen nothing – luckily this scenario is also possible).
Everything on São Jorge is prepared for the worst-case scenario, although everyone is hoping that it won’t happen.
A bit more than 8,000 people live in São Jorge. Since last Saturday, more than 1,500 of them have left the island (mainly to neighbouring islands of Pico and Faial), and of those who have stayed, around 1000 people, alone or with the help of local services, have moved to the neighbouring municipality of Calheta.
The inhabitants of the fajãs in the Velas municipality also left their houses. Entry to these areas is prohibited until Monday midnight. Tectonic shocks combined with heavy rains may result in landslides.
(Fajãs are those small pieces of land at the foot of high rocks, which were formed, among others, by landslides and the deposition of rock material by the sea).
In the municipality of Calheta, many people have opened their hearts and homes, and local authorities have created places for those unable to find other refuge.
In shelters, schools, and rooms at chapels, there are already beds, mattresses, blankets, and a supply of water and food.
Residents are also regularly informed about what to do in case of an emergency and what should be included in the emergency kit.
There are escape routes prepared, everyone knows where to go.
Azorean Airlines SATA and the ferry company Atlanticoline have launched more connections and introduced exceptional, liberalized rules for the transportation of pets.
The Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa visited the island on Sunday. He emphasized the great solidarity of the island’s inhabitants, great preparation for this situation and incredibly honest and clear communication of all information. He called for calmness and announced his visit in April, to have a swim in the ocean. And in the meantime, he took a lot of selfies with the locals.
There are already Facebook groups on the islands where people offer their help, including – a place to live for those who need it.
There are no non-standard shocks on the other islands. Everyone looks with concern at what’s happening on São Jorge. And everyone is hoping that the shocks will pass and the people of São Jorge will return to their normal lives.
Sources: IVAR, CIVISA, IPMA, RTP Açores, Antena 1 Açores, Açoriano Oriental, Governo Regional dos Açores, and others