Nyiragongo Volcano Erupts After Almost 2 Decades – Volcanic Eruption in Congo 2021
Nyiragongo Volcano, situated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has erupted once again for the first time after almost two (2) decades forcing thousands to flee their homes while some have lost their lives. The sudden eruption occurred on May 22, 2021, Saturday night. The skies turned fiery red due to the volcano’s eruption and lava spilled down on its sides to the nearby Goma City of the D.R. Congo-The East-Central African state.
The nature of 2021 Nyiragongo Volcano eruption isn’t yet clear. It is suspected that the lava erupted could have either resulted from a sideway fissure linked to the central conduit which drained the lava lake from the volcano’s summit caldera or it occurred from a new lateral conduit tapping a separate reservoir.
Unfortunately, at least 32 people are estimated to have lost their lives as a result of the 2021 Mount Nyiragongo eruptions in the Virunga National Park – Democratic Republic of the Congo. Also, an estimate of over 500 homes have been destroyed due to the recent eruption.
Mt. Nyiragongo experienced a deadly eruption in 2002 following several months of increased seismic and fumarolic activity. During the 2002 Mt. Nyiragongo eruption, the 13kms fissure opened in the South flank of this active volcano, spread for a few hours to cover the altitude range of 2800 to 1550m and covered the outskirts of Goma City, the Provincial Capital in the Northern Lake Kivu shores. The Lava streamed from 3 spatter cones around the end of the fissure and spread in a stream about 200-1000m wide and 2m depth via Goma.
However, warnings had been passed and over 400,000 crossed to nearby Rwandan border to Gisenyi at the time. The Lava during the 2002 Nyiragongo Volcano eruption spread to cover the Northern side of the runway at Gomaa International Airport and left the southern part usable but reached Lake Kivu. There were fears that the Lava might result in a sudden rise in the gas saturated waters deep in the lake and release lethally large amounts of Carbondioxide and methane. Fortunately, this didn’t occur though monitoring still continued by volcanologists.
The 2002 Nyiragongo eruption left over 245 people dead from asphyxiation by Carbon dioxide and buildings that collapsed as a result of lava and earthquakes. The lava occupied 13% of Goma, approximately 4.7sq.kms and over 120,000 became homeless. When the eruption stopped, a huge number of earthquakes were experienced around Gisenyi and Goma-this was felt for at least 3 months resulting into collapsing of several buildings. After 6 months, Mt. Nyiragongo the eruption occurred again.
Another Nyiragongo Volcano eruption was experienced in 1977 when the crater walls fractured and lava lake drained in not more than 1 hour. The 1977 Nyiragongo eruption spread at the speed of 60kms per hour on the upper slopes-the fastest lava flow ever recorded. Over 600 people lost their lives as a result of the eruption.
About Mt. Nyiragongo
Mt. Nyiragongo is undoubtedly one of the world’s most active volcanoes and it has erupted several times since 1882. It has steep sides making its lava flows faster and this has always worried the experts if the next eruption occurred. Mt. Nyiragongo, an active stratovolcano of the Virunga Volcanoes rises at an altitude of 3470m.
Nyiragongo Volcano is one of the D.R. Congo’s unique attractions centered within the Virunga National Park, 12kms North of Goma Town and Lake Kivu. It has a main crater with a width of about 2kms containing fiery Lava Lake. The crater on Nyiragongo Volcano features 2 unique cooled lava benches within its crater walls; one of these lava benches is 3175m and the lower one is found 2975m.
Mt. Nyiragongo’s Lava Lake has on many occasions considered to be the most voluminous. Its depths varies and its maximum elevation prior to the 1977 eruption was at 3250m and 600m deep. During the 2002 eruption, Nyiragongo’s Lava Lake was 2600m/900m below the rim.
Geology of Mt. Nyiragongo Congo
Mt. Nyiragongo partially overlaps Baratu and Shaheru Volcanoes. It is surrounded by several other small cinder cones which resulted from flank eruptions. This volcano’s cone comprises of pyroclastics and lava flows. Its lavas are low-silica alkali-rich, ultramafic extrusive rocks mostly free of feldspars and these range from olivine rich melilites to nephelinites. These consist of minerals such as leucite, kalsilite, nepheline, clinopyroxene and other.
The low silica composition is due to eruptions with unusually fluid flows. Mt. Nyiragongo is monitored by Goma Volcanic Observatory (GVO) team of scientists but, unfortunately, the World Bank terminated its funding contribution in towards GVO in 2020.