Most Dangerous Volcanoes in Africa
Most Dangerous Volcanoes in Africa Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania named as one of the Most Dangerous Volcanoes in Africa. Parts of Africa are highly volcanic, especially the East African Rift Zone. Ethiopia alone has 50 volcanoes that are still active. However, other countries like South Africa, Tanzania, Cameroon and DRC also have volcanoes.
So how dangerous or deadly are these African volcanoes? Below is the top 10 most dangerous volcanoes in Africa!
10) Dabbahu, Ethiopia
The Dabbahu Volcano is also known as Boina, Boyna, or Moina locally. It is an active volcano in the Afar region in Ethiopia and is part of the Rift Valley volcanic system. An eruption in 2005 created a fissure in the earth with a length of 60km.
Ash of the eruption reached villages up to 40km away. An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.5 hit three days after the eruption started. In total 11,000 people fled the area due to the eruption and earthquake.
The eruption created a massive fissure in the earth – Image credit to Anthony Philpotts
9) Marion Island, Prince Edwards Islands, South Africa
Marion Island is the top of a 5000m high shield volcano (similar to Hawaii) that rises 1242m out of the Indian Ocean. The volcano is active and erupted in 1980 and 2004 and is the only active volcano in South Africa. The only inhabitants are a changing crew of approx. 50 scientists who can only escape by boat.
The Marion Island shield volcano
8) Ol Doinyo Lengai, Tanzania
Ol Doinyo Lengai means “Mountain of God” in the Maasai language. An eruption in 2007 caused a number of earthquakes. The strongest of these had a magnitude of 6.0. Older eruptions caused ash fall as far away as Loliondo which is more than 100km away. The volcano remains highly active with eruptions in 2008, 2010 and 2013.
Ol Doinyo Lengai erupting in March 2008 – Image credit to Cessna 206
7) Manda Hararo, Ethiopia
The Manda Hararo is a group of volcanoes that first erupted in 2007. There were no warning signs according to the local population. The violent eruption continued for three days while the local people fled the area. In 2009 the volcano erupted again and lava flows were seen up to 5km away from the Volcano. No casualties were reported.
The volcanic field around the two main volcanoes is considered the most active volcanic field in the world.
The Manda Hararo volcano system – Image credit to Earthweek.com
6) Mount Cameroon
Mount Cameroon is the most active volcano in West Africa. Locally it is also known as Mongo ma Ndemi or Fako. It is one of the largest volcanoes in Africa with a height of 4040m. In 2000 lava flows caused by two eruptions came very close to the town of Buea. In 2012 there was a small eruption, but this time it mostly produced ash that posed no danger in the area. It did however injure two guides that were on the mountain at the time.
With around 500,000 people living or working on the flanks of the volcano a larger eruption would cause catastrophic damage.
Mount Cameroon – Image credit to Savannawood.com
5) Nyamuragira, Democratic Republic of Congo
This is the most active volcano in Africa. It erupted roughly every two years for decades. However, it has been fairly quiet since 2011 when the last major eruption occurred. In 2014 the volcano became active again creating a lava lake in the caldera (crater) with a depth of 500m.
There are no villages close to the volcano fortunately. However, its lava flows could still be dangerous as the volcano lies only 25km north of Lake Kivu. A large lava flow into the lake could lead to lake overturning. Lake overturning is when a sudden change in the lake brings CO2 and other dangerous gasses to the surface. In 1986 this caused the death of around 1700 people at nearby Lake Nyos.
Lake Kivu is almost 2000 times larger and around 2 million people live around the lake. An event like that at Lake Nyos could have a devastating effect. The chance of this happening is luckily quite low as the CO2 concentrations in the lake are not as high as in Lake Nyos.
Nyamuragira volcano eruption in 2014 – Image credit to MONUSCO Photos
4) Mount Fogo, Cape Verde
After a few days of increasing seismic activity the eruption of Pico de Fogo started on the 23rd of November, 2014. Local villagers spend the first night outside because of the strong earthquakes. Evacuations started once the eruption got underway. The eruption only stopped after a total of 77 days. By that time two villages were destroyed and over 1500 people had been evacuated. Fortunately there was no loss of life.
The entire island of Fogo is part of the volcano that has a diameter of 25km. A major eruption would give the 37,200 people living on the island little chance to escape.
Mount Fogo – Image credit to Aldo Bien
3) Karthala, Comoros
Mount Karthala (or Karthola) is an active volcano with a height of 2361m above sea level. It is one of two volcanoes that form the Grande Comore Island. With more than 20 eruptions since the 19th century it is considered highly active and dangerous.
After a long quiet period the volcano blasted into action in April 2005. The large lava flows and deadly volcanic gases that were spewed out by the volcano caused the evacuation of 30,000 people. In 2006, 2007 and 2012 the volcano erupted again, but these were much smaller than in 2005.
With over 300,000 people living on the small island a large eruption would cause massive damage and loss of life.
Mount Karthala is very active – Image credit to Afrotourism.com
2) Nabro, Ethiopia/ Eritrea
On June 12, 2011 the Nabro volcano erupted and spread its lava and ashes over hundreds of kilometers. The eruption caused a series of earthquakes with the strongest reaching a magnitude of 5.7. The ash plume reached a height of 15km and reached a size of 50km by several hundred km. The ash cloud severely disrupted air travel in the region.
Afar, a state in Ethiopia, felt the brunt of the impact. By the time the eruption ended at least 31 people had died and thousands had been evacuated.
The worst part is that this was the first eruption in recorded history. The volcano was considered extinct so very little research was done before 2011. This means that the danger of the volcano is not known.
Image showing the massive size of the 2011 Nabro Volcano eruption – Image credit to Phil Plait
1) Mount Nyiragonga, Democratic Republic of Congo
Mount Nyiragonga is the most dangerous volcano in Africa. Since 1882 it has erupted at least 34 times and at times remained active for years. The lava from Nyiragonga is very fluid and lava flows can reach speeds of 100km/h when racing down the mountain.
In 1977 an eruption cracked the walls of the crater and the lava lake inside was released in just one hour. The lava reached speeds of up to 60km/h, destroying villages and killing at least 70 people.
In 2002 another massive eruption happened. A large fissure quickly spread from the volcano that reached the nearby city of Goma. Lava flows between 200 and 1000m wide with a depth of 2m streamed through Goma. 400,000 people were evacuated. A combination of noxious gasses, earthquakes and lava flows killed around 147 people. At least 4500 buildings were destroyed (about 15% of Goma) and around 120,000 people were left homeless.
Another danger of this volcano is that carbon dioxide seeps from the ground. When this can’t be spread by the wind (like in buildings) it can cause death by asphyxiation. This has happened to several children very recently.
The most dangerous part of this volcano is that Lake Kivu is very close. In 2002 lava flows reached the lake causing fears that the lake could see a similar event as that at Lake Nyos in 1986. Fortunately this did not happen, but scientists are still monitoring the situation.
The 1986 Lake Nyos disaster killed 1700 people. Lake Kivu is about 2000 times larger and over 2 million people live closeby. A ‘Lake Nyos event’ could cause damage on an unimaginable scale.
Mount Nyiragonga lava lake – this is the most dangerous volcano in Africa – Image credit to Cai Tjeenk Willink