Comoros

Comoros: Karthala Volcano OCHA Situation Report No. 2

Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2005/0214
OCHA Situation Report No. 2
Comoros - Karthala Volcano
Occurred 24 November 2005

1. Situation

The Karthala Volcano has been in eruption since Thursday 24 November. The eruption began with projections of ashes and smoke, which spilled volcanic debris over extensive areas of the Grande Comore Island. Although the projections receded on Friday 25, the Karthala Volcanologic Observatory has warned that levels of seismic activity remain high, and that a lava lake is in formation in the crater.

The south-eastern and south-western parts of Grande Comore Island, and the Comoros capital, Moroni, remain covered by dust and volcanic debris.

Approximately 2,000 people, who fled from their villages to seek refuge in less exposed areas, have reportedly returned to their places of origin.

The authorities, in collaboration with UN Agencies and the Comoros Red Crescent Society, undertook a rapid assessment of the needs in affected areas during the first two days of the eruption. Further assessment activities are still underway.

2. Needs

Concerns exist over the availability of potable water, and the impact of pollution by volcanic debris on public health, agriculture and livestock for approximately 245,000 people living in 76 villages in the areas exposed to ashes and smoke.

- Of this number, an estimated 175,000 persons have inadequate access to potable water, due contamination of water tanks. This situation is further compounded by the fact that water levels on the island are low due to delayed seasonal rains. Many people have been without potable water for several days, or had to walk from their villages to the capital for water supply.

- Reports indicate that populations in affected areas have been inhaling volcanic dust since the beginning of the eruption, and that many people, especially elderly and children, are facing troubles to breathe freely.

- A significant part of the agricultural crops in the villages have been covered by ashes. Technical expertise is needed to assess the environmental impact of the eruption.

Difficult terrain conditions and lack of air transportation make it difficult to ascertain the exact scope of the needs.

3. Response Plan

Based on the result of the assessment, the authorities have established the following priorities:

- water: water supply to affected populations, cleaning of water tanks, and water analysis;

- sanitation: cleaning of streets, public facilities and private buildings, prevention of dust inhalation, and public awareness;

- agriculture and livestock: provision of technical expertise for an environmental impact assessment, and establishment of a system to monitor the impact of the eruption over time.

4. Interventions

The authorities launched an emergency plan to distribute potable water to affected populations, clean streets and public facilities from volcanic debris, and assess the situation of domestic and community water tanks. In this respect, they have requested support from international partners and local organisations.

As part of this plan, subterranean water is collected in Moroni and transported by truck to the villages. The authorities made 15 trucks available and cover part of the fuel costs for the vehicles. UNICEF supports this operation by providing water tanks, fuel and financial resources to cover operational costs. On average, 200,000 litres of water have been delivered each day during this first phase of the emergency operation.

UNICEF supported the cleaning of all schools in order to allow their reopening, and ensures their water supply. In addition, it is mobilising resources to support the cleaning and covering of water tanks and sensitise populations on safe water utilisation and disease prevention.

WHO will provide technical expertise to the authorities in order to assess public health and water and sanitation conditions.

The Comoros Red Crescent Society has mobilised a team of approximately 60 volunteers, who participate in the assessments, help populations clean water tanks and sensitise people on the cleaning of roofs in order to avoid further dissemination of the volcanic ashes.

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 (France) in support of the national Red Crescent Society. The team has participated in the assessments and collected samples of water and volcanic debris, which were sent to La Réunion for analysis.

PIROI has mobilised a stock of water equipment and material, which has been pre-positioned in the country, since the last eruption in April 2005, and sent a kit of essential drugs in collaboration with TULIPE, a French organisation specialised in providing pharmaceutical products for emergencies. An additional 2,300 kg of supplies, including water tanks, tarpaulins, tents, essential drugs, and medical material, will be dispatched with the help of a French military aircraft on Saturday 3 December. A water engineer and a logistician are also scheduled to travel to Moroni during the next days in order to reinforce the team already in place.

Two technical experts from the University of La Réunion are also expected to arrive in Moroni on Sunday 4 December in order to assist with the evaluation of the volcanic situation.

UNOSAT has activated the International Charter for Major Disasters <www.disasterscharter.org>. It is expected that this mechanism will provide accurate satellite images of the Karthala Volcano areas in the next days, which will help ascertain the scope of the damages.

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.

UNDP, in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, will provide material support, such as computer and office equipment, to the National Emergency Operations Centre in order to enhance its capacity to manage the crisis. The Chinese government provided financial resources equivalent to US$ 9,500 to the Centre.

UN support to the government is coordinated by the UN Resident Coordinator. The OCHA Regional Office for Southern Africa 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 http://www.reliefweb.int

MAP: Comoros: Karthala Volcano - Situation map

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23
E-mail: ochagva@un.org

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

Disclaimer

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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