Kinshasa – Nyiragongo, the volcano that has begun to erupt in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is the continent’s most active and one of its most dangerous, specialists say.
A Stratovolcano, it and Nyamuragira are the only two still active in the DRC’s Virunga mountain range, and Nyiragongo represents a serious threat to the city of Goma and its roughly 1.5 million inhabitants.
The summit stands at 3 470 metres (11 385 feet) and is said to contain the largest quasi permanent lava lake in the world, the level of which rises and fall from time to time.
It is considered extremely dangerous because lava flows can reach up to 100 kilometres (60 miles) an hour.
The volcano’s previous eruption was on January 17, 2002, when a cloud of ashes spewed three kilometres (9 800 feet) into the air and sent between 15 and 25 million cubic metres (530- 880 million cubic feet) of lava towards Goma.
More than 100 people died and parts of the city were destroyed, with the loss of almost 14 000 structures that left 130 000 people homeless.
Between 300 000-500 000 people fled to neighbouring Rwanda.
In January 1977, between 600-2,000 people died according to various estimations following an eruption that generated a lava flow estimated to have swollen to 20 million cubic metres (700 million cubic feet) in half an hour.
In 1994, when the Rwandan genocide drove 800 000 people into the region, activity measured from Nyiragongo raised fears of a major catastrophe that fortunately did not occur.
A seismic activity observatory was created in Goma after the 2002 eruption to track both volcanoes, but they have not been monitored for the past seven months because of a lack of funding, according to a local specialist.