Experts said that Africas volcanoes are witnessing an increase in lava ejection at risky levels, making it “the most dangerous volcano in the world.”
Nyiragongo volcano, a volcano on the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, is seeing the lava lake fill at an alarming rate. The Nyiragongo Eruption last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and wiping out 20% of the neighboring city of Goma. The volcano has a lava lake with a crater 250 meters wide, which is the largest in the world.
Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist at Luigi Vanvitelli University in Campania, led an investigation into the Nyiragongo Crater earlier this year to measure lava.
But Tedescos team from the Goma Volcano Observatory found that lava in the volcano is rising at an alarming rate and increases the risk of it erupting again.
The team’s analysis predicts that the lava will reach its peak risk levels within four years, but it also warned that the earthquake could lead to a disaster sooner.
“This is the most dangerous volcano in the world,” said Tedesco, painting a grim picture of the dangers posed by Nyiragongo.
Tedesco began monitoring the volcano in the 1990s, when Rwandan refugees fled to Goma. The United Nations asked a volcanologist for advice on the dangers to which the population might be exposed to Nyiragongo.
In 2002, Tedesco observed that an earthquake had opened fissures on the southern side of Nyiragongo, opening up the lava lake.
The lava was completely drained from the fissure within hours, flowing at a speed of 60 kilometers per hour towards Goma.
In 2002, the Goma Observatory saw lava accumulating at a height of two meters, which also led to the creation of an outpost 800 meters wide in nearby Lake Kivu.
The cracks sealed after the disaster, but in 2016 the team noticed a second venting fountain in the crater.
Tedesco noted in February of this year that a second opening had caused the lava lake to rise faster than ever before.
The second hole was pouring an estimated 4 cubic meters of lava per second, which the team suggests is enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool every 10 minutes.
Pierre-Yves Borghi, a geophysical model designer at the University of Geneva and part of the Goma Volcano Observatory, said the lava level is a measure of the internal pressure of a volcano.
He said that the internal pressure of the volcano far exceeds 20 atmospheres, which could lead to shattering the sides and thus to a volcanic eruption.
“This situation is not stable. The danger is in a tremor that opens a new fissure,” Borge wrote in geophysical research letters last August.
He added that he expects the lava lake to stop rising within the next few years, with the peak eruption threat of Goma volcano between 2024 and 2027.
While Tedesco warned of the impending eruption, he also bemoaned the external factors that prevent the team from monitoring the volcano, noting that the team’s seismographs network, which reads the pressure and movements of volcanoes, needs constant maintenance due to sabotage, theft and lightning damage.
Funding has also been withdrawn by the World Bank Group, from the Goma Vulcan observatory, and Tedesco added: “If things continue this way, there is nothing to be optimistic about.”
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