This volcano, Nyamuragira, is 8 km north of the Nyiragongo volcano, which is much closer to Goma. We’ll be missing this show with our recent re-routing away from Goma.

Experts say Congo volcano eruption huge, but safe

Africa’s most active volcano, Nyamuragira, is putting on quite a show for anyone who can get close enough to see it.

The volcano, in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, and near to the town of Goma, is in the midst of its biggest eruption in a century.

The national park is a World Heritage Site renowned for its diversity both of flora and fauna, and while volcanologists and park officials say the eruption does not pose any immediate threat to the local population, they are keeping a close eye on it.

They say they have detected a dramatic increase in seismic activity and that the eruption has increased in intensity.

“It is perhaps the Nyamulagira’s biggest eruption this century,” said Tedesco Dario, a volcanologist with the Goma Volcanological Observatory.

“The fracture runs about one kilometre, which is huge, and its lava fountains are reaching almost 400 metres high,” he added.

Goma, a town of more than 500,000 people, lies on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern border with Rwanda and is close to neighbouring Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. In 2002, an eruption by Nyiragongo, a volcano much closer to the town, sent a stream of lava up to a kilometre wide and two metres deep through the centre of the city.

While Dario plays down fears, he does raise the possibility that seismic activity in the Rift Valley could spread to Nyiragongo.

Nyamuragira Volcano, north of Goma

“For the time being, the population of Goma and its surrounding areas should not worry. There is no current danger to the inhabitants, I would say the risk is nil. The problem with this eruption is that it was preceded by significant seismic activity, which means there have been a lot of tectonic earthquakes which were also felt around the Niragongo volcano. Our problem is in fact the Niragongo, it is not the Nyamulagira. We are worried that the Niragongo could be shaken by this seismic activity and earthquakes, and its southern front could open up. This front is very fragile, and could pour lava towards Goma town. For the moment, there is nothing that points towards this scenario, so we are somewhat happy,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials at the park are keen to make the most of the eruption, and say it is safe for tourists to visit the site.

“It has been assessed that it’s possible to get quite close to the volcano safely, and to spend the night here so things are looking quiet positive in that respect,” said park ranger, Emmanuel Demerode.

The Virunga National Park is home to one the world’s last remaining wild populations of mountain gorillas, and also has elephants, chimpanzees and hippopotamuses.