How long has Mount Nyiragongo been active?
How long has Mount Nyiragongo been active in Virunga national park? Little information is known on how long the Nyiragongo volcano has been erupting however, since 1882, Nyiragongo has erupted at least 34 times, including many periods where activity was continuous for years at a time, often in the form of a churning lava lake in the crater.
The presence of the lava lake at the summit of the volcano was suspected for some time but was not scientifically confirmed until 1948. At that time, it was measured at nearly 120,000 square meters (1.3×106 sq ft). Subsequent research shows the lake fluctuates in size, depth, and temperature over time.
The lava lake activity is ongoing and as of 2020, the lake is mostly confined within a broad, steep-sided cinder cone which is roughly 18 m (60 ft) high by 180 m (600 ft) wide) on the crater floor.
2002 Mount Nyiragongo eruption
Lava lakes reformed in the crater in eruptions in 1982–1983 and 1994. Another major eruption of the volcano began on 17 January 2002, after several months of increased seismic and fumarolic activity. A 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) fissure opened in the south flank of the volcano, spreading in a few hours from 2,800 to 1,550 metres (9,190 to 5,090 ft) elevation and reaching the outskirts of the city of Goma, the provincial capital on the northern shore of Lake Kivu. Lava streamed from three spatter cones at the end of the fissure and flowed in a stream 200 to 1,000 metres (660 to 3,280 ft) wide and up to 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) deep through Goma. Warnings had been given and 400,000 people were evacuated from the city across the Rwandan border into neighbouring Gisenyi during the eruption. Lava covered the northern end of the runway at Goma International Airport, leaving the southern two-thirds usable, and reached Lake Kivu. This raised fears that the lava might cause gas-saturated waters deep in the lake to suddenly rise to the surface, releasing lethally large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane – similar to the disaster at Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986. This did not happen, but volcanologists continue to monitor the area closely.
About 245 people died in the eruption from asphyxiation by carbon dioxide and buildings collapsing due to the lava and earthquakes. Lava covered 13 per cent of Goma, about 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2), and nearly 120,000 people were left homeless.
Immediately after the eruption stopped, a large number of earthquakes were felt around Goma and Gisenyi. This swarm activity continued for about three months and caused the collapse of more buildings.
Six months after the start of the 2002 eruption, Nyiragongo volcano erupted again.
2021 Mount Nyiragongo eruption
The recent mount Nyiragongo eruption began on 22 May 2021. Lava approached Goma international airport and moved towards eastern Goma town. The authorities of North Kivu province confirmed that the eruption happened at around 17:00 GMT and consequently, a highway to Beni was blocked by lava. The government later advised residents from the city of Goma to evacuate to Gisenyi and other safety areas which caused thousands of people to leave their homes.
As of 27 May 2021, 37 people were missing and presumed dead, after a lava flow reached the outskirts of the city of Goma. As a result of the eruption at least 32 people were registered dead, mostly caused by car crashes in the ensuing evacuation.