15 July 2011

Report on IVM-Fund trip to Guatemala: Part 4

Posted by Jessica Ball

Finally, the end of the story!

From April 29 – May 3, 2011, Dr. Jeff Witter of the International Volcano Monitoring Fund (IVM-Fund) made a trip to the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory (OVSAN) to deliver a set of volcano monitoring equipment. This equipment was purchased with the proceeds from a fundraising effort that I and the OVSAN personnel conceived of and that Jeff helped put into action. Jeff did a great writeup of his experiences in Guatemala, and asked that I share it with everyone who has contributed to the fundraiser (and anyone else who is wondering what that “Donate to Guatemala” button is on the top of this blog). If you’ve donated to the fundraiser, thank you, and please enjoy the results of your generosity! If you’re thinking of donating or are interested in learning more about the effort, please click on the “Donate to Guatemala” tab and visit the IVM-Fund website.

Trip report by Dr. Jeff Witter:

Day 3: May 3, 2011

Fuego Volcano Observatory (OVFUEGO) in the town of Panimaché.

I [Jeff Witter] woke up at 6:45 am to a partly cloudy sky, more rumbling volcanic noises, and a view out the observatory window straight up the flank of Fuego volcano. The summit crater, which was producing the small explosions and oozing lava, lay only 8 km away. OVFUEGO sits on the southwest flank of the volcano at the end of a road on the uppermost edge of the town of Panimaché (Figures 27 & 28). Apart from the two observers at OVFUEGO, INSIVUMEH has one more Fuego volcano observer located in the tiny village of Sangre de Cristo located on the west side of the volcano. With these two observatory posts, INSIVUMEH has the capacity for observational lahar monitoring of the river valleys in this sector of the volcano.

View of Fuego volcano looming above OVFUEGO.

Similar to OVSAN, the observers at OVFUEGO call INSIVUMEH headquarters by radio three times per day to report in and provide information on Fuego’s activity for the daily volcano bulletin. There are also seismic stations on the flanks of Fuego which record volcanic earthquakes and transmit the data straight to INSIVUMEH headquarters. OVFUEGO personnel have put in significant effort to establish good relations with the local community and provide volcano hazard educational programs. I was told that when volcanic activity at Fuego becomes significant enough to make the townspeople nervous, they gather at OVFUEGO to wait for an information update about the level of danger. In my experience, a high level of trust between a volcano observatory and the local community is not as common as one would hope, but it appears that the efforts of OVFUEGO to build strong community relationships have paid off.

A small children's library is one example of OVFUEGO's efforts to build a good community relations program.

The observatory even has a small library of children’s books with Dr. Seuss titles that are enjoyed by local children (Figure 29). Due to the high level of activity at Fuego volcano and the strong community relationships, the IVM-Fund thinks OVFUEGO could be a good partner for a second volcano monitoring support program in Guatemala. Further discussions with our Guatemalan colleagues should elucidate how IVM-Fund support for OVFUEGO might complement their current efforts.

Later that day, I returned to Guatemala City with my hosts. We stopped in at the head office of Claro, the internet service provider, to obtain information about getting an internet connection at OVSAN. I had my credit card out and was ready to pay-in-full for 2 years of internet but, unfortunately, we were told that their system wasn’t set up for bulk payments. No matter. We left armed with information on the different options for internet plans, intent on figuring out an effective method to pay on the required monthly basis. Over lunch at the market in the Guatemala city center, Gustavo, Manuel, and I discussed our collaboration and plans for potential future programs. Overall, I was pleased by their level of gratitude to our donors and impressed by their level of commitment to making effective use of the equipment provided to them by the IVM-Fund. I parted ways with my new friends convinced that the IVM-Fund has a good partner in Guatemala and that by working together, the IVM-Fund can provide volcano monitoring support that is greatly desired and will have a significant, positive impact.



Part 1: The IVM-Fund and Guatemala Fundraiser

Part 2: Arrival and Day 1 in Guatemala City

Part 3: The Santiaguito Observatory (OVSAN)