Comoros: Karthala Volcano OCHA Situation Report No. 1

Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2005/0211
OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Comoros - Karthala Volcano
28 November 2005

1. Context

The Karthala Volcano forms most of the landmass of Grande Comore (also called Ngazidja), the main island of the Union of the Comoros. The volcano is one of the largest volcanos in activity in the world. Over the last two hundreds years, it has erupted every eleven years on average. In April 2005, a volcanic eruption projected ashes and volcanic debris on the eastern part of the island, affecting as many as 40,000 people.

2. Situation

The Karthala Volcano had an eruption for the second time this year in the night of Thursday 24 November, spilling ashes and smoke over the south-eastern and south-western parts of Grande Comore Island, and the Comoros capital, Moroni.

During Friday 25, the projections of ashes and smoke receded. However, seismographic data collected by the Karthala Volcanologic Observatory has shown that the seismic activity is continuing. According to the observatory, a lava lake is in formation in the crater, as of yet confined within the crater.

According to the local authorities, approximately 2,000 people fled from their villages in the region of Bambao in the central part of the island, and sought refuge in less exposed areas, such as Mitsamiouli, Mboudé, and Oichili.

3. Response

The authorities issued a warning advising populations to avoid exposure to volcanic debris, and have undertaken a rapid assessment of the needs in the areas affected by the eruption, in collaboration with the UN Agencies and the Comoros Red Crescent Society.

The French Red Cross Society's Regional Intervention Platform for the Indian Ocean (PIROI) sent an emergency team, composed of two engineers and two medical doctors, from La Réunion. Their task is to provide technical support to the national Red Crescent Society for assessing needs. PIROI has also a stock of water equipment and material in La Réunion, which will be dispatched, based on the results of the assessment.

4. Needs

Concerns exist regarding the availability of potable water in the areas exposed to smoke and ashes. Preliminary results from the assessment indicate that as many as 118,000 persons living in 75 villages may be affected by the contamination of water tanks. A further assessment of the water tanks is underway to ascertain the exact scope of the needs.

Concerns also exist regarding the impact of the pollution by volcanic debris on agriculture and livestock.

5. Coordination

The government of the Union of the Comoros has a national disaster preparedness and response plan, which specifies roles and responsibilities of the government departments and their partners in the event of a disaster.

Disaster response coordination falls under responsibility of the Ministry of Defence and Territorial Security, which manages relief operations through a National Emergency Operations Centre.

UN support to the government is coordinated by the UN Resident Coordinator. The OCHA Regional Office is maintaining regular contact with the Resident Coordinator in order to determine additional coordination support needs.

6. Contact

Ms. Giuseppina Mazza, UN Resident Coordinator: + 269 73 10 25
Mr. Chris Kaye, OCHA Regional Office for Southern Africa: + 27 11 517 1609

7. This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

MAP: Comoros: Karthala Volcano - Situation map

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers:

Mr. Alfred Nabeta, direct Tel. +41-22-917 2732
Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, direct Tel. +41-22-917 1712

Press contact:

(GVA) Ms. Elizabeth Byrs, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53
(N.Y.) Ms. Stephanie Bunker, direct Tel. +1-917-367 5126


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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