Comoros: Karthala Volcano OCHA Situation Report No. 1

Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2006/0088
OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Comoros - Karthala Volcano
30 May 2006

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. The majority of the eruptions were magmatic, resulting in lava flow on both sides of the island, or phreatic, projecting ashes and volcanic debris on parts of the island. In April and November 2005, two phreatic eruptions occurred, affecting 40,000 and 175,000 people, respectively.

2. Situation

The Karthala Volcano began showing signs of increased activity in the evening of Sunday 28 May. Populations of the island witnessed a red glow in the sky above the crater.

Specialists from the Karthala Volcano Observatory and the University of La Réunion (France) undertook a reconnaissance flight over the crater in the morning of Monday 29 May. The investigation indicated that a fountain of lava is active in the crater and that a lake of lava is in formation. The caldera has no cracks and the lava remains contained within the crater.

Based on these observations, the reconnaissance team suggests two scenarios for the evolution of the volcanic activity: 1) the fountain of lava runs until exhaustion and cooling of the magma; or 2) the lake of lava gets drained from the bottom and disgorges from the caldera. In the latter scenario, contact of the lava with ground water may result in a phreatic explosion with projection ashes and volcanic debris.

Reports indicate that the population remains calm. No population movement has been registered.

3. Response

The authorities have activated the national emergency response preparedness plan. In this respect, an emergency task force has been established, which includes government departments, UN agencies and the Comoros Red Crescent Society.

The authorities have put vehicles on standby in order to evacuate populations, should it be required. They also keep populations informed of the situation through the media.

The Comoros Red Crescent Society has activated its network of volunteers. The French Red Cross Society's Regional Intervention Platform for the Indian Ocean (PIROI) in La Réunion and the Regional Delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Nairobi are on standby to provide support to the Comoros Red Crescent Society, should it be required.

4. Needs

The volcanic activity has not threatened people's lives and livelihoods or infrastructure so far.

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 the 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 in contact with the UN Resident Coordinator in order to determine coordination support needs, should support be required by the development of the situation.

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

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

MAP - Comoros: Karthala volcano - Situation map


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