Facts, Travel

Top 10 Most Dangerous Volcanoes in Africa

2) Nabro, Ethiopia/Eritrea

On June 12, 2011 the Nabro volcano erupted and spread its lava and ashes over hundreds of kilometers. The eruption caused a series of earthquakes with the strongest reaching a magnitude of 5.7. The ash plume reached a height of 15km and reached a size of 50km by several hundred km. The ash cloud severely disrupted air travel in the region.

Afar, a state in Ethiopia, felt the brunt of the impact. By the time the eruption ended at least 31 people had died and thousands had been evacuated.

The worst part is that this was the first eruption in recorded history. The volcano was considered extinct so very little research was done before 2011. This means that the danger of the volcano is not known.

Image showing the massive size of the 2011 Nabro Volcano eruption

Image showing the massive size of the 2011 Nabro Volcano eruption – Image credit to Phil Plait

1) Mount Nyiragonga, Democratic Republic of Congo

Mount Nyiragonga is the most dangerous volcano in Africa. Since 1882 it has erupted at least 34 times and at times remained active for years. The lava from Nyiragonga is very fluid and lava flows can reach speeds of 100km/h when racing down the mountain.

In 1977 an eruption cracked the walls of the crater and the lava lake inside was released in just one hour. The lava reached speeds of up to 60km/h, destroying villages and killing at least 70 people.

In 2002 another massive eruption happened. A large fissure quickly spread from the volcano that reached the nearby city of Goma. Lava flows between 200 and 1000m wide with a depth of 2m streamed through Goma. 400,000 people were evacuated. A combination of noxious gasses, earthquakes and lava flows killed around 147 people. At least 4500 buildings were destroyed (about 15% of Goma) and around 120,000 people were left homeless.

Another danger of this volcano is that carbon dioxide seeps from the ground. When this can’t be spread by the wind (like in buildings) it can cause death by asphyxiation. This has happened to several children very recently.

The most dangerous part of this volcano is that Lake Kivu is very close. In 2002 lava flows reached the lake causing fears that the lake could see a similar event as that at Lake Nyos in 1986. Fortunately this did not happen, but scientists are still monitoring the situation.

The 1986 Lake Nyos disaster killed 1700 people. Lake Kivu is about 2000 times larger and over 2 million people live closeby. A ‘Lake Nyos event‘ could cause damage on an unimaginable scale.

Mount Nyiragonga lava lake - this is the most dangerous volcano in Africa

Mount Nyiragonga lava lake – this is the most dangerous volcano in Africa – Image credit to Cai Tjeenk Willink

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