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Nyamuragira pours out lava as eruption continues 5 January 2010

Posted by admin in activity reports, Africa, Congo (Dem. Rep.), eruptions, Nyamuragira.
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The eruption of Nyamuragira volcano (also known as Nyamulagira) in the Democratic Republic of Congo which began early on 2 January is continuing and seems to be increasing in intensity, raising concerns about local human and animal populations. Lava flows are causing forest fires around the volcano and some reports say nearby villages are threatened by the eruption. The United Nations is providing aircraft to help the local authorities monitor the eruption. There are some reports that the emission of lava is accelerating.

The BBC and NTV Kenya have some spectacular video footage of the eruption, including dramatic lava fountaining (the NTV video is also available at YouTube). Nyamuragira’s lava is of very low viscosity – Eruptions explains why – and can run a long way (tens of kilometres) from the active vent.

In an interview with Radio France International the director of the Goma Volcanological Observatory, Katcho Karumé, confirms that the eruption does not constitute a danger for the city of Goma, 22 km to the south-east, but that if lava reaches the Gulf of Kabono, north-west of Lake Kivu, explosions could cause the release of large amounts of CO2 sitting just below the surface of the water, which (as in the 1986 Lake Nyos disaster) could cause the asphyxiation of people living nearby:

The large lake Kivu, which has a lot of methane, does not represent too much danger, but there is a small lake called the Gulf of Kabuno in which there is more CO2 than methane. Evidently, the situation is not yet at the stage of saturation but many researchers along with ourselves think that we are not far from this situation of saturation. If the flow of lava continues and it empties into the peninsula of Kabuno, and this small lake beside the large lake Kivu, this could lead to explosions if it approaches saturation.

In August last year scientists reported that thousands of people were at risk from the CO2 pocket in the Gulf of Kabuno:

An estimated three cubic kilometres of carbon dioxide lie just 12 metres below the surface of the gulf, which sits atop a tectonic faultline. Scientists fear a major earthquake or large lava flow from a nearby volcano could provoke a giant release of gas, creating a deadly cloud.

Katcho Karumé told Radio France International that this is not an imminent threat: only after ‘around 17 days of sustained emission of lava’ would there be a danger of the lava reaching the Gulf of Kabuno. However, as noted above, Nyamuragira’s lavas run very freely and have the potential to reach very far.

UPDATE. Interesting articles about Nyamuragira at Greg Laden’s blog: ‘The Volcano Nyamuragira: Some Context’ and ‘Nyamulagira Volcano and Human Evolution’.

News
La lave du volcan Nyamulagira continue de couler dans la forêt – Direct.cd, 3 January 2010
Congo volcano threat to villages – BBC News, 3 January 2010
Congo’s Nyamulagira volcano erupts – NTV Kenya, 3 January 2010 (video also at YouTube)
L’éruption du volcan Nyamulagira suscite l’inquiétude – Radio France International, 4 January 2010
Volcanic lava threatens DRCongo national park – AFP, 4 January 2010
Eruption du Nyamulagira en RDC: doublement de la quantité de lave rejetée – AFP, 4 January 2010
UN offers DRC support after volcanic eruption – Times Live, 5 January 2010
Lava gains speed in Congo park – Independent Online, 5 January 2010

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Nyamuragira – summary information for Nyamuragira (0203-02=)

The Volcanism Blog