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Sand volcanoes pose new hazards for quake survivors; thousands left homeless

Photos: Joe Espinoza

April 20, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – Rescue Task Force (RTF), a nonprofit international relief organization founded in El Cajon and now headquartered in Carlsbad, seeks donations of tents, supplies and money to help quake survivors in Baja, Mexico including the hard-hit Cucapah Indians.  “RTF is working with our local Indian tribes to bring relief,” said Gary Beck at RTF. “Friday we will be delivering 80 long-term use tents to 80 families suddenly left homeless.”

Besides direct damage to buildings and infrastructure, the quake has caused a new and bizaare hazard.  "Thousands of sand volcanoes were errupting very hot muddy water during the earthquake in the Mexicali Valley," Patricia Robles wrote to a former colleague who teaches in Calexico.  "The erruptions reached at least six feet above the ground, don't know how deep they came from. They happened everywhere, even inside people's homes and caused a lot of panic." Photos were taken by Joe Espinoza, an eyewitness to the erruptions.


Not only were homes flooded with mud, but in some cases entire villages flooded within minutes, inundated by reddish water with a sulfur odor.  The residents have been left homeless from the farm villages, or ejidos.  "They have not been offered any shelter and there are thousands of people living/sleeping outside," said Robles.  "Most cannot return to their towns (probably ever), so they are in the desert with no direction from their government about what they are to do or where they are to reestablish their communities."  Much of their thousands of acres of farmland (mostly wheat and cotton) has also lost due to destruction of irrigation systems.


Sand volcanoes can occur following an earthquake as a result of liquifaction and ejection of fluidized sand in water saturated sediments. They resemble miniature volcanoes -- cones of sand with miniature craters.


Beck's team will work with  local Mexican volunteers that will meet the RTF team Friday morning in Mexicali, where additional supplies and food will be purchased, loaded into pick-up trucks and delivered to the tribal area. He thanked SoCal Petroleum for providing fuel and asked public help for additional donations to enable immediate relief delivery.

Checks may be mailed to: Rescue Task Force, 2270 Camino Vida Roble, Suite K, Carlsbad, CA 921011.

For more information on Rescue Task Force, visit