Archived Volcano News - John Seach
January 26-31, 2002


News reports posted in Eastern Australian Time (UT + 10 hr)
Reports written by John Seach

Yasur Volcano (Vanuatu)
19.52 S, 169.42 E, summit elevation 361 m, Stratovolcano
Thursday 31st January 2002
A larger than normal eruption occurred at Yasur on 25 January around 1300. A pilot reported that an ash cloud rose ~2 km a.s.l. and slowly drifted S. The ash cloud was not visible on satellite imagery, possibly due to heavy meteorological cloud cover. This was a larger than normal eruption from Yasur and may have been caused by the magnitude 7.3 earthquake in Vanuatu on January 3.
More on Yasur volcano...
Volcanoes of Vanuatu...

Plane Crashes into Volcano
Cumbal Volcano (Colombia)
0.98 N, 77.88 W, summit elevation 4764 m, stratovolcano
Wednesday 30th January 2002
Rescue workers at the site of a crashed Ecuadorean airliner in south-western Colombia say there were no survivors. Wreckage of the Boeing 727-100 belonging to Ecuador's state-run TAME airline was found spread over a wide area on the 4,700 meter (15,000 feet) Cumbal volcano, just north of the Ecuador-Colombia border. The jet vanished in dense fog over the Andes on the Ecuador-Colombia border on Monday. The plane was carrying 83 passengers, including seven children, as well as seven crew and two mechanics.
Rescuers have no idea what caused the tragedy, but they have been searching the crash site for the plane's flight recorder. The plane took off from Ecuador's capital Quito and was bound for the border town of Tulcan, from where it was scheduled to fly on to the Colombian city of Cali.
More on Cumbal Volcano...

Nyiragongo Volcano (Democratic Republic of Congo)
1.52 S, 29.25 E, summit elevation 3469 m, stratovolcano
Tuesday 29th January 2002 
1. On January 28, a flight allowed the volcanologists to reach Nyiragongo main crater and make observations of the inner part of the summit crater. It was confirmed that more than 600 metres of the crater floor almost completely collapsed. There was no activity nor fumaroles at the bottom of the crater, however CO2 was present. Few weak steam vents were visible on the inner crater wall. The volcano was perfectly clear and a small gas plume could be seen above the crater rim to the NorthEast. Dead trees on the northern outer slope of the crater were observed as well as evidence of slumping of the upper parts of the crater. Non eruptive fractures are visible all around the crater at different heights. Several non-eruptive fractures have been noted on the southeastern flanks near the site of Kibati. 
2. Part of the volcanologist team went to about 10 km west of Goma along the Lake Kivu shore, where three persons who witnessed events on January 20 and 21, were interviewed and reported an increase in lake temperature, the presence of bubbling gases, dead fish and a brown discoloration rising from the bottom of the lake. It is estimated that the shoreline subsided by about 5-10 cm. Subsidence of the shoreline has also been observed in front of the lava flow that entered the lake in Goma itself. Gas samples will be collected on this site. Gas samples and thermal waters discharges were collected at Rambo springs about 400 metres from the Bralirwa (Rwanda) along the lake, 8 km East of Gisenyi. Samples of water and gas were collected for analysis at Cap Rubona where a pipeline, installed about 10 years ago, extracts gas from the lake Kivu at a depth of 320 metres. 
3. A field team studied in detail the system of normal faults and fractures from Monigi to the North over about 3 km. Observers confirmed fractures formed on the morning of January 17 and expanded southward. Lava flows emitted from the main fracture in several places. At several locations, steam vents produced small explosions. Steaming and high heat flow is present in the area. Numerous houses in the villages of Kasenyi and Bugara (at least 600 people live there) collapsed, others are crossed by the still active fault system. The Mugara cinder cone has been cut by the graben system to the West and shows evidence of significant instability. 
4. On January 28, three shocks were felt, between 4 and 8 km North of Goma centre. The alert level remains Yellow. Seismic and other measuring equipment continues to arrive. 
More on Nyiragongo Volcano...

Nyiragongo Volcano (Democratic Republic of Congo)
1.52 S, 29.25 E, summit elevation 3469 m, stratovolcano
Monday 28th January 2002 
There are unconfirmed reports of new fissures opening or existing fissures expanding in areas north of Goma, according to USAID/OFDA field reports. A seismologist from Japan has arrived to assist the team of volcanologists at Goma in identifying the cause of continuing geologic activity, and to assess possible risks to populations in the area. 
Each day there are several incidents of unruly crowds at the eleven food and non-food item distribution points in Goma and Sake. Implementing agencies are working with local authorities to better manage the crowds.
Numbers Affected by the Eruption:
Total Affected: Approximately 350,000 (U.N.)
Deaths: Approximately 147 (U.N. and USAID/OFDA field reports)
Displaced People: Approximately 30,000 (USAID/OFDA field reports)
Homes destroyed: 12,500 households (60,000 to 80,000 people) (USAID/OFDA field reports) Background: Mt. Nyiragongo erupted at approximately 9:30 AM local time (2:30 AM EST) on January 17. The volcano produced three paths of lava, one of which headed toward the city of Goma, 18 kilometers to the south. A fourth fissure opened at 4:00 PM on January 17. The area had been experiencing tremors intermittently since March 2001. The most recent eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo was in 1977, when the lava flow covered 20 square kilometers, killed 2,000 people, and destroyed 400 houses and a 10-kilometre section of road. 
More on Nyiragongo Volcano...

Living Next to Volcanoes
Sunday 27th January, 2002
A Goma-style catastrophe is waiting to happen in other parts of the world where people continue to build on potential lava flows. Experts say Mount Etna on Sicily and several volcanoes on the island of Hawaii will eventually produce lava eruptions similar to the one that engulfed large parts of the Congolese town of Goma when Mount Nyiragongo erupted. But such predictions have failed to halt the construction of homes and businesses below the volatile craters. 
In 1984, lava from Hawaii's Mauna Loa, the world's biggest volcano, came within a mile of the town of Hilo. Hilo was built on old lava flows, according to vulcanologist Dr Dave Rothery. And sooner or later, Mauna Loa will erupt and lava will flow again. 
On the west side of the island of Hawaii is Hualalai. The volcano's flanks are covered with resorts, homes and businesses. The Keahole Airport was built atop the flow and according to Dr Rothery it is in the volcanic firing line. 
A third Hawaii island volcano, Kilauea, is widely considered to be the world's most active. It has been erupting continuously since 1983. Kilauea has already produced lava that cut a through the island's perimeter road affecting hundreds of homes. 
In Europe, the greatest threat is posed by Mount Etna. Last July, Etna's lava destroyed a ski lift, car park and cable car station. 
Like Goma's Mount Nyiragongo, these volcanoes are known for producing lava alone, without the threat of deadlier, swift-moving pyroclastic flows. Such eruptions rarely lead to deaths. Lava moves slowly, giving residents enough time to escape on foot. The destruction the flows cause to roads and property raises questions about the wisdom of building on these places. 
In some countries, there is little choice. Japan, for example, has only a small percentage of land that is inactive. The Philippines and Indonesia are similarly volcanic. 
But there are also economic motives for building on and around volcanoes. Eruptions leave behind fertile soils - an irresistible lure to farmers from poor, agriculture-based societies. 
In wealthy nations like the United States, the attraction is more recreational than vocational. Volcano slopes offer residents scenic spots for camping and skiing. 
People who live near Etna and the Hawaiian volcanoes are well aware of the risks. They have simply decided that the benefits outweigh them.
Volcanoes of the world...

Earthqaukes Foretold Nyiragongo Eruption
Nyiragongo Volcano (Democratic Republic of Congo)
1.52 S, 29.25 E, summit elevation 3469 m, stratovolcano
Sunday 27th January, 2002
Two seismological stations on Mount Nyiragongo gave several days advance warning of the volcano's eruption, scientists working in the area say.
But the lack of a functioning government in the war-torn region may have prevented the evacuation of the nearby city of Goma.
For the past decade, a Japanese team has sought to maintain a seismic network at the volcano. In 1994, five monitoring units were donated by the US Geological Survey's Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) to form the Goma Volcano Observatory.
But fighting in the area and looting of equipment by armed militia camped on the volcano itself regularly forced volcanologists to flee.
According to the VDAP, only two monitoring stations were working properly before the eruption. VDAP scientists nevertheless received a warning on 12 January - five days before the first eruption. Efforts were made to raise the alarm, but the lack of governance in Goma makes it unlikely that any plan to evacuate the city could have been implemented.
Last week's eruption was the largest in the volcano's history, according to geological evidence.
Predicting future eruptions of an active volcano such as Nyiragongo will require a far more elaborate monitoring system than the two stations currently in place.
More on Nyiragongo Volcano...

Goma Still at Risk
Saturday 26th January 2002
Nyiragongo Volcano Disaster (Democratic Republic of Congo)
1.52 S, 29.25 E, summit elevation 3469 m, stratovolcano.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
One vulcanologist said he would advise against rebuilding Goma at its present location, due to the danger of further eruptions. However, he and other colleagues concurred that they could only offer scientific advice. Politicians, they said, would have to take the decision on an evacuation. 
The scientists confirmed that the ash observed in Goma on Wednesday was most likely from the collapse of the inner crater of Mt Nyiragongo. They said the continuing earth tremors were due to gases, fluid magma moving underground; magma mixing with the underground water table; and activity deep beneath the earth's surface. 
Gases detected in Goma, they said, were from decomposing bio-matter trapped within the hardening lava; petrol stations buried under the lava; and work crews cutting passages through the crusted surface lava.
Volcanoes of Democratic Republic of Congo...

Second Volcano Erupts in Congo
Nyamuragira Volcano (Democratic Republic of Congo)
1.408 S, 29.20 E
summit elevation 3058 m, shield volcano
Saturday 26th January 2002
There are unconfirmed reports of a second volcano erupting 30 km north of Goma.
A longtime resident in Gisenyi, just across the border from Goma in Rwanda said that Nyamuragira volcano was  glowing red and blowing ash. Reports stated lava was flowing eastward. It was not immediately possible to contact authorities in Goma to confirm the reports.
More on Nyamuragira Volcano...

Rift Valley Volcanoes (Africa)
Saturday 26th January 2002
Volcanologists have warned that eruptions could spread along the Rift Valley which straddles Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, where there are dormant volcanoes. 
Professor Wilson Mwaniki Ngechu, head of the Geology Department at the University of Nairobi told the BBC that recent studies had shown evidence of volcanic activity suggested a serious threat to the entire region. 
He said that the volcanic eruptions in DR Congo could potentially stir magma lying some five to 10 kilometres below the Rift Valley surface in East Africa, where there are "volcanic activities". 
Since Nyiragongo erupted last week destroying much of Goma, powerful earth tremors have been aggravating relief work and have destroyed more than 1,500 houses and several schools just across the border in Rwanda.
Volcanoes of Africa...

Nyiragongo Volcano (Democratic Republic of Congo)
1.52 S, 29.25 E, summit elevation 3469 m, stratovolcano
Saturday 26th January 2002 
1. The seismic activity remained relatively constant and unchanging. The three seismic measuring devices currently in place indicate that Goma is on top of the epicenter of subterranean activity. The activity appears to be occurring close to the surface, a theory supported by surface fractures and gas emissions. It is believed that continuing shocks are due to several activities: magma fluid moving underground; gases moving, rising to the surface; or magma fluid interacting with underground water table - which would explain the large amount of gas that has risen to the surface, transported in steam. Activity from deep beneath the earth's surface is also another possibility. 
2. The gas present in the city of Goma is not emanating from the lake, in which gases such as CO2 are dissolved in water within strata at a depth of 500 m to 200 m. Rather, the gas most likely comes from decomposing biomass trapped within the lava, along with other harmless gases. The volcanologists noted that one of the primary gases present, methane, does not accumulate in the air, but disperses gas detected in town could also be due to gas stations that were buried under the lava, or to digging taking place in lava, especially to open roads between the east and west of city. 
3. The ash observed in Goma on Wednesday (OCHA Situation Report No. 7 paragraph 1 refers) likely came from the collapse of the inner crater of Mt. Nyiragongo. According to the volcanologists conclusions, the most recent eruption has been building for at least one year. They also stated that this latest volcanic activity was relatively small. Magma eruptions are possible throughout the region. Lower Gisenyi as well as Goma are at risk. 
4. Three teams of experts/volcanologists will be traveling to analyze gases being released, to observe the crater, review film footage of crater taken on the 24 of January and observe the massive surface fractures 
5. UN agencies estimated that a total of 100,000 lost their homes in this crisis. In the area of Bukavu, figures of the displaced people are as follows (OCHA DRC) : in Minova 7,000 persons,- of whom 1,000 have stated they wish to go to Bukavu; 2,000 in Masisi town; 500 in Nyamasasa: and 252 in Mukwindja. Immediate needs were identified as follows: food, medication, non-food items, and transport. 131 non-accompanied children were counted along the Goma-Bukavu axis. 57 non-accompanied children were counted in Bukavu. 
6. Within ten days, the entire water network of Goma should be operational.
7. At 11 sites, families were provided each with two blankets, 1 kg of soap, 1 jerry can, and 1 plastic sheet. All families in Goma will receive this preliminary kit of non-food items. Later, a more targeted distribution to homeless families will be conducted, including goods such as cooking utensils, plastic sheets, jerry cans and blankets. Distribution of plastic sheets took place during the days immediately following the crisis. 
More on Nyiragongo Volcano...

Nyiragongo Volcano (Democratic Republic of Congo)
1.52 S, 29.25 E, summit elevation 3469 m, stratovolcano
Saturday 26th January, 2002
General: Experts working with OCHA appear to be in agreement that further eruptions are unlikely and Goma has been officially declared safe. However, there is reported activity from Nyamuragira the volcano some distance from Nyragongo. There are ongoing tremors over 4.3 on the Richter scale and the possibility of earthquake activity above that level is possible. There is also a small possibility that dangerous gases could form. About 35% of the town is now reported destroyed. Water supplies, reinforced by the ICRC, are partially operational and the water quality is acceptable and there is no concern at this stage over there being sufficient supplies for the population. Electricity is available in a limited area of the town. Some 13/15 health care centers as well as three hospitals are operational. Contrary to some reports there are no confirmed cases of cholera. However, diarroehal and respiratory infections are on the increase. The general health status is acceptable but monitoring continues. Bulldozers are endeavoring to clear pathways through the lava. and OCHA reports 2,100 metres of the 3,300 metre-long Goma airport runway is available and small planes have been reported to have been landing. However at the time of reporting, it officially remains closed but planes up to the size of a C 130 could land once permission is given. Jet Al fuel is available. The airstrip is considered suitable for DC-3s and Hercules aircraft. 
Population Movements: The city population is increasing as displaced people return to Goma. Red Cross assessment teams say such movements make it difficult to supply accurate figures but it is estimated that 300,000 were displaced by the eruption. USAID/OFDA estimates of the number of displaced elsewhere are as follows: in Goma suburbs (62,5000); Sake, DRC (5,000); Rutshuru, DRC (5,000); displacement camps near Gisenyi, Rwanda (15,000 and steadily decreasing); Bukavu, DRC (11,000); surrounding areas (30,000) in towns on the southeastern shore of Lake Kivu (up to 60,000); and in six sites near the northwestern shore of Lake Kivu, near Sake (up to 60,000).
More on Nyiragongo Volcano...