Comoros: Karthala Volcanic Eruption - Information Bulletin n° 1

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In Brief

This Information Bulletin (no. 1/2005) is being issued for information only, and reflects the status of the situation and information available at this time. The Federation is not seeking funding or other assistance from donors for this operation at this time.

The Situation

On the night of 24 November 2005, the Karthala volcano on the Comoros Islands erupted for the second (1) time this year, spilling ashes over the south part of the Grand Comore Island and its capital - Moroni. According to government estimates, 245,000 people were affected.

In addition to disrupting the normal social and economic activities, the ash spill poses a significant health risk to the population. Of immediate concern is water pollution and aggravating environmental hygiene conditions resulting in respiratory problems.

While volcanic activity continues to be observed by the Observatoir National du Karthala, no further lava flows and ash spills have been reported since 27 November 2005.

Red Cross and Red Crescent action

In partnership with the Comoros Red Crescent and in collaboration with the Federation regional delegation in Nairobi, the Indian Ocean Regional Disaster Response Platform [Plate-forme d'intervention régionale pour l'ocean Indien (PIROI)] and the French Red Cross conducted an assessment to determine the immediate impact of the Karthala volcanic eruption and to identify the populations at risk.

PIROI identified cleaning of water tanks and provision of clean water to the affected population as areas of priority intervention. The assessment has been confirmed by the UN, which has estimated that 175,000 people could face a shortage of potable water. In addition to deploying a water and sanitation engineer who is already on the ground, 40 Comoros Red Crescent volunteers have been mobilized and the French Red Cross has sent a team of two water engineers and two doctors to evaluate the situation. Some water treatment equipment is already stationed at the national society's headquarters. The French Red Cross has put additional equipment on standby at its base in La Réunion, awaiting the first report of the assessment team. PIROI is preparing to send water transport equipment, medical and logistic kits. A logistician has been deployed as of 5 December 2005.

Furthermore, PIROI and the Comoros Red Crescent undertook the following activities:

- In collaboration with the Observatoir Volcanologique, samples of ash were taken and sent for analysis to La Réunion.

- A kit of drugs has been sent in order to increase frontline health services capacities for disease control.

- Protective masks have been made available to volunteers and other people involved in ash cleaning operations.

The objective of the first emergency response is to secure a minimum of one water tank for each of the 75 affected villages. A post emergency operation involving placing covers on community water tanks and boreholes is planned, and will continue for several months.

The regional delegation in Nairobi is coordinating exchange of information with key partners (including UN agencies and scientific institutions) and is providing technical support to Red Cross/Red Crescent field personnel.

The Comoros Red Crescent is also involved with government authorities and local communities in clean up activities in social and administrative infrastructures, including schools, to prevent children's excessive exposure to volcano ashes. UNICEF has provided 280,000 litres of water.


(1) Observatory for the Karthala volcano had earlier (on 16 April 2005) noted abnormal seismic activity. The resultant volcanic eruption was localized to the interior of the crater and its surroundings in the afternoon of 17 April 2005- without lava flow. For more details refer to Information Bulletin no. 1/2005-

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

In Comoros: Mohibaca Baco, President, Comoros Red Crescent, Moroni; Email:; Phone +; Fax +

In Kenya: Susanna Cunningham, Head of Indian Ocean Islands, Sub-Regional Office Nairobi; Email:; Phone +; Fax +

In Geneva: Amna Al Ahmar, Federation Regional Officer for Eastern Africa, Africa Dept; Email:; Phone +41.22.730.4224 ; Fax +41.22.733.03.95

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's) in Disaster Relief and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (Sphere) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable.

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