Why Congo's Mount Nyiragongo is one of Africa's most dangerous volcanoes

Nyiragongo represents a serious threat to Goma's inhabitants. The summit stands at 3,470 metres and is said to contain the largest quasi-permanent lava lake in the world.

DR Congo's Nyiragongo volcano 

Five people were found choked to death on toxic fumes from the eruption of eastern DR Congo's Nyiragongo volcano on Monday, as strong aftershocks rocked the city of Goma.

The deaths bring to 20 the number killed since Africa's most active volcano erupted on Saturday, spewing red-hot molten lava that engulfed houses in its wake.

Goma, a city of some 1.5 million people in the shadow of the volcano, was on edge as violent aftershocks continued through the night and into Monday morning.

Tens of thousands of residents had fled the city in panic -- around 7,000 of them to neighbouring Rwanda -- when Nyiragongo began erupting on Saturday evening.



Lava stopped at the edge of Goma

Along with the five people found dead on Monday, at least 15 people have died, although most were not killed directly by the eruption

Authorities said nine people died in accidents during the rush to evacuate, while four prisoners were killed while trying to escape in the melee. Two people were found burned to death.

While the river of lava stopped at the edge of Goma and many residents have now returned, each aftershock brought anxious residents back out onto the streets on Monday.


Schools still shut

Schools are still shut with pupils told to stay at home, although businesses and petrol stations were open again.

Nyiragongo's last major eruption, in 2002, claimed around 100 lives. 

By Monday the blackish solidified lava was still hot and smoking, with dozens of people turning out to inspect it or even walk on it, despite the risk of inhaling toxic fumes.

The volcano appeared calm on the horizon, with the usual smoke rising from its crater.


Trade hit, people left homeless

A government delegation including seven ministers arrived from Kinshasa early Monday, while President Felix Tshisekedi has cut short a European tour to supervise the aid operation.

Health Minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani said upon his arrival in Goma that the delegation was set to organise support for people made homeless after the eruption after "assessing the state of affairs".

Hundreds of people spent Monday night in the street after the lava destroyed their homes. 

Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya warned Sunday that the prices of food and other essentials are set to rise in Goma as the eruption has cut off several hundred metres of the road to Butembo, the region's main trade route. 


Lava flows can reach up to 100 kilometres an hour

Nyiragongo, the volcano that has begun to erupt in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is the continent's most active and one of its most dangerous, specialists say.

A Stratovolcano, it and Nyamuragira are the only two still active in the DRC's Virunga mountain range, and Nyiragongo represents a serious threat to the city of Goma and its roughly 1.5 million inhabitants.

The summit stands at 3,470 metres (11,385 feet) and is said to contain the largest quasi permanent lava lake in the world, the level of which rises and fall from time to time.

It is considered extremely dangerous because lava flows can reach up to 100 kilometres (60 miles) an hour.

The volcano's previous eruption was on January 17, 2002, when a cloud of ashes spewed three kilometres (9,800 feet) into the air and sent between 15 and 25 million cubic metres (530- 880 million cubic feet) of lava towards Goma.


Major catastrophe

In January 1977, between 600-2,000 people died according to various estimations following an eruption that generated a lava flow estimated to have swollen to 20 million cubic metres (700 million cubic feet) in half an hour.

In 1994, when the Rwandan genocide drove 800,000 people into the region, activity measured from Nyiragongo raised fears of a major catastrophe that fortunately did not occur.

A seismic activity observatory was created in Goma after the 2002 eruption to track both volcanoes, but they have not been monitored for the past seven months because of a lack of funding, according to a local specialist.


Rare mountain gorillas safe

Tourists who were near the crater when the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic Congo erupted are safe, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) said.

Nor were the rare mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park threatened by the eruption, the institute added.

"The tourists present yesterday at the crater are safe and sound", the institute, which oversees the wildlife sanctuary, said on Twitter, without indicating their numbers or nationalities.

The park, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, covers 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) of tropical rainforest that is notably home to the world's biggest population of eastern lowland gorillas.

The Nyiragongo volcano, whose slopes dominate the city of Goma and Lake Kivu, erupted suddenly on Saturday night, sending thousands of residents fleeing in panic.

A vast river of molten lava came to a halt Sunday on the outskirts of Goma, sparing the city.


Intense seismic activity

The Goma region is a zone of intense seismic activity, with six volcanos, including Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, which rise to 3,470 and 3,058 metres (11,384 and 10,033 feet) respectively.

Eruptions are frequent, not just from the craters but from the sides of the volcanos.


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