Azerbaijan probes impact of offshore mud volcano eruption

Published July 6, 2021
BAKU (Azerbaijan): An aerial view of the aftermath of a strong explosion in the Caspian Sea, 75 kilometers off the coast of Baku.—AP
BAKU (Azerbaijan): An aerial view of the aftermath of a strong explosion in the Caspian Sea, 75 kilometers off the coast of Baku.—AP

BAKU: Emergency services in Azerbaijan on Monday were gauging the environmental fallout of a mud volcano eruption in the Caspian Sea, the latest occurrence of the natural phenomenon in the oil-rich nation.

The eruption occurred on Sunday evening near the island of Dashlyg in the vicinity of offshore oil and gas fields, with plumes of fire reaching 100 metres (330 feet) above the sea, Azerbaijan’s national seismological centre said in a statement.

The Caucasus nation’s emergency service said “helicopters are conducting flights above the Caspian Sea to study the eruption’s impact”.

“There is no threat to oil and gas infrastructure or the lives of people,” it added.

Video distributed by the emergency services on Monday showed smouldering flames surrounded by brown mud deposits in Caspian waters.

That was hours after amateur footage circulating social media on Sunday evening showed a glowing fireball above the sea’s surface. Azerbaijan’s State Oil and Gas Company (SOCAR) said the eruption had not damaged infrastructure, which “continues operating normally”.

Azerbaijan is home to nearly a third of the world’s 1,700 mud volcanoes, both underground and underwater, according to a study by Russia’s Institute of Geology. The Caspian Sea has a high concentration of such volcanoes, which spew both mud and flammable gas.

SOCAR spokesman Ibrahim Ahmadov told the Interfax-Azerbaijan news agency that the company staff found a mud volcano ablaze on the uninhabited island of Dashly, about 30 kilometers off the coast of Azerbaijan between the towns of Alat and Neftchala.

Azerbaijan’s Emergency Ministry said that the volcano continued to burn, but the fire doesn’t pose a threat either to the sea oil and gas infrastructure and other objects, or to people’s lives.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2021

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