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New Congo mountain eruption imminent, warns volcanologist

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ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP or licensors

Democratic Republic Of Congo

The Nyamuragira volcano, a close neighbor of the more famous Nyiragongo, in the east of the DRC, could experience an upcoming eruption but a priori without any danger for the houses, the Goma Volcanological Observatory (OVG) said on Wednesday.

"We went yesterday to Nyamuragira with the helicopter of Monusco" (the UN force in DRC) and we worked for more than two hours in the crater," explained to AFP Celestin Kasereka Mahinda, scientific director of the OVG.

"Our observations are that Nyamuragira remains active" and that an "internal eruption", inside the crater, "may occur in the near future", he added. "When we talk about eruption, the population assumes that the lava will flow towards the houses, but for us, scientifically, the eruption is the appearance of lava on the surface," he said.

Célestin Mahinda also pointed out that unlike Nyiragongo, which "directly threatens the cities of Goma and Gisenyi" (a Rwandan city bordering Goma), the previous external eruptions of Nyamuragira were directed into the Virunga Park or towards nearby roads.

Nyamuragira last erupted in 2011 and the volcano has been experiencing internal activity since 2014, he said.

An internal eruption, however, could result in "a plume of smoke" heading toward populated areas and could also make air traffic difficult in the area, the scientist further explained. In addition, "the rain that would pass through the volcanic gas would be an acid rain (...) that could have consequences on health".

Even if there are "not so many" possible direct consequences of an eruption of Nyamuragira on Nyiragongo, "we are monitoring both volcanoes at the same time", assured Mr. Mahinda.

The last eruption of Nyiragongo, with lava flowing through cracks in the volcano's flanks, killed 32 people and destroyed several hundred homes on May 22. Less than four months later, lava had reappeared in the crater, which, for the scientific director of the OVG, was rather good news, as the volcano had found "a way to breathe".

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