MapAction supports St Vincent volcano emergency response

MapAction is providing mapping and information management support to the La Soufriere volcano emergency on the island of St Vincent, in response to requests from both CDEMA (Caribbean Disasters & Emergency Management Agency) and UN OCHA’s regional office. 

Explosive eruptions from La Soufriere since April 9th have caused ash clouds to cover much of St Vincent, Bequia and southern St Lucia, as well much of Barbados.  Pyroclastic flows have descended from the mountain top, after it was confirmed that the volcanic dome had collapsed. 

Monitoring of the volcano is difficult as existing seismic stations were knocked out and it became dangerous to travel into the area. By the 7 of April, circa 16000 residents had been advised to evacuate following early signs of activity.  The incident has already caused serious need for shelter, PPE and fresh water and is developing. Flooding is now reportedly compounding the situation.

MapAction, an international emergency mapping and geospatial support organisation whose HQ is in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, is currently supporting the situation remotely, having already assembled a dedicated team of 3 volunteers and one staff member, located in Montserrat, the Turks & Caicos Islands (both in the Caribbean), New Zealand and the UK respectively. All members of the MapAction team will be working remotely due to the travel and other complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are no current plans to send a geospatial team to the affected area, although two of the team are based in the Caribbean region.

The direct mission costs are being met by the German Federal Foreign Office. MapAction’s response capacity has been supported by UK FCDO,  and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and MapAction has been working extensively in the region on disaster preparedness work thanks to USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs. 

Many of MapAction’s maps and other information products relating to this emergency will be available here as the emergency develops. 

Mapping mountains

By Jorge Andres, MapAction volunteer

A few years ago, on a MapAction team training course, participants were asked to present a map that provided particular insight, analysis, or novelty – going beyond simple descriptive mapping.

I chose this map I created of the 2014-5 volcanic eruption on Fogo Island. The steep relief of the island was highly relevant for humanitarian response. Emergency coordinators were monitoring the lava flow as it could reach a critical point where some settlements and roads could be potentially affected afterwards. However, trying to show it with contour lines made the map too messy for a shelter map like this. Satellite imagery and some image processing was used. But, with hindsight, I’m not so sure it was the right option.

I thought quite a lot about this map and the visualisation of the relief. But honestly, this was the best I could do on a static map for showing relief to a broad audience without contour lines.

However, creating this map and then later collaborating with the University of Edinburgh on a volcanic hazard mapping project made me think of a 3D output as a better option for maps where relief is extremely important for understanding the emergency situation.

This fed into my approach to creating the below map of the Crisis del Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala last year.

The volcanic hazard mapping project we are collaborating on with Edinburgh University is growing and we now have funding to expand to six more countries. We are currently working on Chile’s Nevados de Chillán.