Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano – A stratovolcano is a tall, conical volcano composed of one layer of hardened lava, tephra, and volcanic ash. These volcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic, explosive eruptions. The lava that flows from them is highly viscous, and cools and hardens before spreading very far. It has an elevation of about 11380 feet and is located inside the Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo about 20km north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu, west of Rwanda.
It has a main crater 2km wide which usually contains a lava lake. The crater has two layers of cooled lava benches within the crater walls. The Nyiragongo lava lake has the most voluminous lava lake known with a depth of 2000 feet.
The lava emitted from Nyiragongo is usually very fluid possibly due to its composition. It is made of Melilite Nephelinite, and it has extremely low silica content. Its lava flows at an extremely high rate of 100 km/h which has led to loss of life in time past.
Though not much is known about the age of the volcano, at least 34 eruptions have been recorded since 1882. At least 120,000 people have been displaced so far, with loss of lives recorded in their hundreds due to asphyxiation, lava flow and earthquakes resulting into building collapses.
The Nyiragongo volcano has been designated a Decade Volcano – A volcano may be designated a Decade Volcano if it exhibits more than one volcanic hazard (people living near the Decade Volcanoes may experience tephra fall, pyroclastic flows, lava flows, lahars, volcanic edifice instability and lava dome collapse); shows recent geological activity; is located in a populated area (eruptions at any of the Decade Volcanoes may threaten tens or hundreds of thousands of people, and therefore mitigating eruption hazards at these volcanoes is crucial); is politically and physically accessible for study; and there is local support for the work.
The Nyiragongo volcano has been described as the fastest moving volcano in the world. The 2002 eruption is brought to mind. As dawn broke, the volcano eruptec leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
It has been estimated that if Mount Nyiragongo erups without warning it may kill close to 2,000,000.
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