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Volcanologists search for answers as Azorean island keeps shaking




Fatima Viveiros was a small girl when she decided that she wanted to be a volcanologist. It was a dream that became a reality. She is now 44 and uses her skills to protect her home.

For seven days, the volcanic island Sao Jorge in mid-Atlantic, where she grew, was shaken by more than 14,000 earthquakes.

Experts fear that the tremors which have been felt at magnitudes up to 3.3 could cause a volcano eruption or a strong earthquake.

"My home is on an active volcano system," stated Viveiros, who works at the CIVISA seismo–volcanic surveillance center.

She said, "When (something) happens in our home, we must be a bit cold-blooded to ensure our feelings don’t affect our thinking." "But the feelings exist because it's my house, my people."

Viveiros was wearing a yellow machine on the back that she used to measure the soil gases on Sao Jorge (an island in the Azores archipelago), an autonomous region of Portugal.

Soil gases such as CO2 or sulphur are indicators of volcanic activity. Viveiros has been fighting strong winds and rain for several days to find the answers. The levels have remained normal so far.


The sudden rise in seismic activity in Sao Jorge is similar to the earthquakes that were detected on Spain's La Palma island before last year's eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano. It's approximately 1,400km (870 miles) southwest of the Azores.

This eruption decimated thousands of crops and properties over 85 days.

Viveiros visited La Palma in order to support the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute at that time and monitor soil gasses there. He said that Sao Jorge's volcanic system was very similar to the one found on the Spanish island.

After observing soil gases on the land for cattle grazing, she stated that one of the possibilities was "something similar to what happened at La Palma".

She added that experts from Spain and abroad are available to travel to Sao Jorge, if necessary.

CIVISA elevated the volcanic alert to Level 4 Wednesday. This means that there is a "real chance" that the volcano could erupt.

Jose Bolieiro, Azores' President, stated that the recent earthquakes in Sao Jorge were twice as strong than those in the entire region last year.

He stated to reporters, "There is clearly an anomaly."

Authorities have stated that the eruption is not likely, but around 1,500 people have fled the island by sea or air in the last few days. Many don't know when they will be able return.

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