Interview with Pavel Plechov

Professor Pavel Plechyov of the Geological Department at Moscow State University spoke to RT about Geyser Valley, and the possible consequences of the recent mudflow.

Russia Today: What do you think caused such a strong mudslide?

Pavel Plechyov: A special commission has been set up in Kamchatka, which has flown out to Geyser Valley. I think very soon it will present its conclusion considering the cause of the mudslide. Such mudslides are quite periodical in Kamchatka and I think there is no special cause for this very mudslide. This is a periodical process, which happens occasionally, I repeat. What is more complicated is concerning the consequences of what has happened. A lot of telemetric equipment perished there, the infrastructure for tourists has been totally destroyed and now it's dangerous for non-specialists to be there because there are a great number of thermal waters in Geyser Valley that can break cover in any part of the valley. On the whole, the commission will be working there and maybe they will call in some additional specialists for liquidating the consequences of the mudslide.

RT: You mentioned that it is not the first time the valley has been hit. Is there no way of predicting this might happen?

P.P.: Of course, there are methods of predicting mudslides, however, this requires some additional monitoring. If we look at the history of Geyser Valley, it was discovered in the 1940s. In the 1950s it was described in scientific papers. It has been systematically observed since the 1970s. In 1981 there was a mudslide, quite a large one I might say. I cannot say whether it was bigger then today's one, but it destroyed several geysers, partly destroyed many other geysers but Geyser Valley was restored some time later. In principal it is possible to predict mudslides providing that you have enough equipment. But what's more important is to reduce their damages. Today we have good methods of re-directing mudslides so that they couldn't destroy certain objects. Geyser Valley is a unique corner of Russia which should be preserved, besides it is an object, which is under UNESCO's protection. And I do hope that maximum effort will be undertaken to restore this natural valley. Of course, it will never be the same as it was before, but I hope it won't perish entirely. It is very difficult to say what has happened to the valley's unique fauna. I'm afraid some of the species living there might be exterminated.      

RT: This week G8 leaders will discuss climate change and environmental protection. Do you think global warming could have been a factor in this accident in Kamchatka?

P.P.: Geologically, Kamchatka is a very young area. Sometimes volcanic eruptions and tectonic actions happen there. I don't think the mudslide we are talking about was caused by global warming. Of course, there was a very unusual winter in Kamchatka when first there was very little snow but then it was snowing heavily. But these are the processes which happen periodically every 20-30 years.

RT: When do you think the area might be opened to visitors?

P.P.: I think this will happen during this year. This is really an area which has to be restored and shown to people.   

Earlier, Pavel Plechyovjoined Russia Today to comment on the current volcanic eruptions in the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Russia Today: Ashes shot up by Shiveluch and lava on the side of Klyuchevskaya Sopka. Are we now seeing the full potential of these volcanoes?

Pavel Plechyov: Shiveluch and Klyuchevskoy are very powerful volcanoes, but some eruptions can be much worse. For example, in the course of history there were several   catastrophic eruptions of Shiveluch that affected the whole Kamchatka. The eruption we are seeing now is quite powerful, but poses no danger to the towns located closely. The Klyuchevskoy volcano is one of the largest in the world, on of the most active volcano in the world, and the tallest volcano in Eurasia.  Currently, we are seeing a top-point eruption. Lava is flowing down from the top of the volcano. But in the history of Shiveluch there were also