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Volcano in Martinique not erupting, assure officials

mudslides-not-volcanoFORT-DE-FRANCE – The Volcanic and Seismological Observatory in Martinique has sought to dismiss reports of volcanic activity at Mount Pelée.

Images were being circulated via WhatsApp yesterday accompanied by claims that the volcanic mountain in the northern end of the island was experiencing unusual activity, with more than 135 sulphur springs popping up over a four-day period.

Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving currents of hot gas and volcanic matter made up of a high-density mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas. They move at very high speeds down volcanic slopes, typically following valleys.

But officials said the images were not pyroclastic flows but a rapid flowing volcanic mudslide of rock debris and water, known as lahar, which occurred on Monday at about 9 p.m. in the river Prêcheur, located to the north of Martinique, between Mount Pelée and the extinct Mont Conil volcanoes.

Those mud flows were due to recent heavy rains on the island.

A release from the Volcanic and Seismological Observatory said the last magmatic eruption at Mount Pelée occurred between 1929 and 1932, and there has been no sign of volcanic activity since then.

The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) in neighbouring St Lucia said Martinique has experienced occurrences of lahar in previous years. One of the more recent occurrences was on June 19, 2010 when 20 houses were affected, but there was no loss of life.