Mount Nyiragongo eruption of 2002
Mount Nyiragongo eruption of 2002: Mount Nyiragongo is one of the active volcanic mountains of Africa. Mount Nyiragongo is located in the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Mount Nyiragongo along with the Mount Nyamulagira is the two active volcanoes of Virunga national park Congo. These 2 volcanoes are said to be responsible for 40% of the volcanic eruptions in the entire continent of Africa.
Mount Nyiragongo is located near the Rwanda border with the Democratic republic of Congo just 10 kilometers from Goma town.
The Mount Nyiragongo eruption of 2002 was one of the most dangerous recorded eruptions from a number of factors. This eruption lasted one day but covered and destroyed 15% of a major city in DR Congo, the Goma city. The affected points included the Goma international airport, the Goma business center along with the people’s property and their homes leaving up to 400,000 individuals homeless.
The Nyiragongo 2002 eruption was caused by the tectonic spreading of the Kivu rift which led to the fracturing of the ground allowing lava to flow out of the crater lava lake from the fissures on the ground from a deeper conduit that is located in Goma city. The eruption started from the upper southern slopes of the volcano and as it flowed into the town, there was evidence of explosions from the cars and petrol stations exploding all in January 2002. This eruption of 2002 happened in the month of January.
A number of earthquakes were felt a few days before the volcano vents gave way for the lava flows. The tremors had been ongoing for some time in the region since March 2001. The Mount Nyiragongo eruption of 2002 started on the 17th of January 2002 at about 9:30 am local time on this fateful Thursday morning. The eruption occurred in 3 paths of lava flowing up to 14 villages near the Rwanda border displacing a number of people. A number of seismic signs showed ahead of the eruption like the earthquakes/ tremors, the smoke from the volcano and the noticeable change in the shape of the volcano which was getting higher on every check.
According to the United Nations field report statistics, about 12,500 homes were destroyed displacing up to 30,000 people living around the volcano. There were also 147 deaths recorded for this Mount Nyiragongo eruption of 2002 with about 350,000 people affected by this same volcanic activity. The lava flow reached the Goma international airport but luckily all the aircrafts were ordered to flight out on suspicion of the lava reaching that far. A fourth fissure opened later at 4:00pm on the same 17th of January 2002. The helicopters of the UN surveillance reported two vents where the lava was flowing while the Congolese authorities reported 3 vents from which the lava was flowing.
The last eruption of Mount Nyiragongo was the 1977 eruption which was as deadly as it claimed up to 2,000 people and destroyed up to 400 houses and burnt up to 10 kilometers section of road. This eruption lasted 5 days from the 17th to the 21st of January 2002.
Dieudonne Wafulah, a 48 year old Congolese Volcano researcher had been critical about the possible chances of an eruption occurring and even went ahead to warn the local people staying around the volcano to be alert. He had studied the volcano for over 15 years without pay on a sole project. Wafulah sent out his first email to the international authorities addressing them on the eruption on the 8th of January and the need for funds to take a bigger survey team to the volcano to monitor it. Hardly had the United Nations and the French Group for the study of Active volcanoes accepted his proposal than he got news of the Mount Nyiragongo causing unrest in the region spewing lava up to 12 miles away reaching the home of up to half a million people.
His prediction was based on the evident increase in the lava in the lake up to 10 times more than in the 1977 eruption that hit Goma town. He had been studying the Nyiragongo volcano from way back in the 70’s and teased the authorities whom he had tried to warn about the eminent volcanic activity but ignored him if they would listen to him the next time. His equipment had been stolen and vandalized a number of times but this did not discourage his interest in the study of Mount Nyiragongo.
On Wednesday 23rd January, a week later, the Goma city was declared safe after the vents had fully stopped releasing the lava however, the city was left black and the local people feared to return for a while in the refugee camps. Dieudonne Wafulah also predicted that the volcano would not erupt for a few years from then but still discouraged staying at the foot of the volcano or any volcano at that. Rwanda and Uganda, the neighboring countries were both welcoming to the people who were fleeing from the lava and set up camps for the temporary stay.