The unprecedented eruption of Piton de la Fournaise in Reunion Island, some 200 km to the south-west of Mauritius, is causing the release of significant amount of dust, volcanic ash and noxious gases like the oxide of sulphur. These are reported to spread over long distances, causing serious inconveniences to the inhabitants.
I spoke to my brother-in-law in Reunion yesterday; and he says many people are complaining of sore throat and respiratory discomfort. Some have even been hospitalized. The ashes have deposited several kilometers away since the beginning of the month when the eruption started. Lava fountains, several meters high, surging along like boiling clouds poured down to the sea on the south-eastern slope of the island, enlarging the land mass and sectioning one of the main roads.
It is feared that a south westerly wind may bring the toxic gas releases from more violent eruptions to the Mauritian region. In such case the southern coastal regions would be the first to experience the effects.
Scientists believe that the effects of volcanic eruptions may be felt over the long term, impacting mainly on the global climate. Sulphur-rich gas may give rise to acid rain, and acid droplets may cause temperature dip by absorbing incoming solar radiation and bouncing it back into space. Snow was observed in certain parts of Reunion Island last year. Was it the result of the volcanic eruption?