Mount Nyiragongo erupts, causing nearby residents to flee in panic, DR Congo

Mount Nyiragongo erupts, causing nearby residents to flee in panic, DR Congo

Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo started erupting at around 17:15 UTC on May 22, 2021, producing high lava fountains and lava flows that forced nearby residents to evacuate in panic.

According to local media reports, many residents of the nearby city of Goma (population 670 000) grabbed their belongings and evacuated toward neighboring Rwanda.

Red glow filled the sky above the city, sending panicked residents fleeing, Reuters reported.

Volcanologist Dario Tedesco said Goma does not appear to be at risk because lava is flowing east in the direction of the Rwandan border.

According to Reuters, Tedesco earlier said he thought lava might hit Goma, but later he said this was not the case.

A source at the United Nations said their helicopter overflew the erupting volcano, adding that lava is not flowing toward Goma or any major population center.

"The Government is closely monitoring the situation in Goma, particularly the activity of the Nyiragongo volcano," said Patrick Muyaya, a spokesman for Congo's government.

"Local authorities are currently assessing the situation with the volcanological observatory in Goma."

A detailed communication will follow, Muyaya said, and urged the population to remain calm.

The last eruption of Nyiragongo took place in 2002 (VEI 2). Lava flowed into the city of Goma, claiming the lives of at least 250 people and making 120 000 homeless.

Related:

  • Conditions at Nyiragongo volcano suggest another disaster is brewing, DR Congo - The Watchers (October 19, 2020)

Updates

New fissure events opened on the eastern flank of the volcano several hours after the eruption started, producing fast-flowing lava toward the city of Goma.

The flow reached the city's airport late Saturday (LT), May 22, and engulfed several homes.

The power is reportedly out across much of the city.

"Goma is now the target," Tedesco told Reuters. "It's similar to 2020. I think that lava is going toward the city center," he said.

It's difficult to forecast. It might stop before or go on, Tedesco added.

According to the Toulouse VAAC, volcanic ash cloud rose to an estimated height of 13.7 km (45 000 feet) above sea level. The center raised the Aviation Color Code to Red at 21:02 UTC on May 22.

Ash cloud was estimated under 9.1 km (30 000 feet) at 03:00 UTC on May 23.

The government held an emergency meeting and activated an evacuation plan.

According to Rwanda's Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management, more than 3 500 people have crossed into the country. They are reportedly in schools and places of worship.

According to some early Sunday reports, the eruption seems to be subsiding.

Sunday morning update, May 23, can be found at the following link:

Monday morning update, May 24:

 

Nyiragongo is known to produce the faster lava flows on the planet, with speeds exceeding 100 km/h (62 mph).

Geological summary

One of Africa's most notable volcanoes, Nyiragongo contained a lava lake in its deep summit crater that was active for half a century before draining catastrophically through its outer flanks in 1977.

In contrast to the low profile of its neighboring shield volcano, Nyamuragira, 3 470 m (11 384 feet) high Nyiragongo displays the steep slopes of a stratovolcano.

Benches in the steep-walled, 1.2 km (1.9 miles) wide summit crater mark levels of former lava lakes, which have been observed since the late-19th century.

Two older stratovolcanoes, Baruta and Shaheru, are partially overlapped by Nyiragongo on the north and south.

About 100 parasitic cones are located primarily along radial fissures south of Shaheru, east of the summit, and along a NE-SW zone extending as far as Lake Kivu.

Many cones are buried by voluminous lava flows that extend long distances down the flanks, which is characterized by the eruption of foiditic rocks.

The extremely fluid 1977 lava flows caused many fatalities, as did lava flows that inundated portions of the major city of Goma in January 2002.

Featured image credit: Hari Ubuzima

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