Red Sea volcano threatens nearby farmland, say officials

A map of Yemen and the surrounding region highlighting Jabal al-Tair in the Red Sea.
(Google Maps)

The Environmental Emergencies Department (EMD) at Yemen’s Ministry of Water has warned that the volcano on Jabal al-Tair, a tiny island in the Red Sea close to the Yemeni coast, might cause environmental damage to nearby areas. The warning comes after continuous volcanic eruptions on the island since December 2007.

Abdul-Khaleq al-Ghaberi, general manager of EMD, told IRIN that emissions - mainly sulphur dioxide 2 (SO2) and 3 (SO3) - from the volcano could lead to acid rain. "If the wind takes such emissions to nearby areas, the acid rain will destroy agricultural fields and cause water pollution," he said.

The threatened areas include Tehama, a huge agricultural region in the western province of al-Hudeidah, about 70km from the island.

The volcano has not cooled since it erupted on 30 September 2007. Serious eruptions, accompanied by lava flows, occurred again on 3 December and geologists say the eruptions could continue for a long time. A military garrison on Lesser Hunaish island, close to Jabal al-Tair, has not been allowed to return after it was evacuated on 3 December.

According to al-Ghaberi, there are no facilities or resources on the Red Sea islands which could be used to deal with natural disasters, just as there is no institutional authority to deal with natural disasters in al-Hudeidah Province.

Yahya al-Kanaei, head of the General Authority for Developing Yemeni Islands, a government body, told IRIN the volcano had been erupting and fishermen had been warned not to approach the island. "Volcanic gases are rising from the southern part of the island. If they hit the sea, marine life may be threatened," he said.

Al-Kainaei said that a month ago the government had set up three surveillance and early warning stations on three Red Sea islands - Hunaish, Zuqar and Kamaran, but they were not as useful as they could have been: "It would have been better if these stations had been connected to satellites," he said.

According to him, there are 151 Yemeni islands in the Red Sea, of which around 18 lie in the volcanically active part of the sea-bed between the Arabian peninsula and the Horn of Africa.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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