On January 17, 2002 the 500k residents of Goma, in the Republic of Congo, were awakened to sky of fire and rain of falling ash. The cause of this cataclysm was the ominous Mount Nyiragongo. This eruption was the first in twenty five years, causing great damage in a very abrupt and damaging 48 hours. Lava flows in this eruption were exiting from three different fissures spilling on the once lush countryside. The eruption consumed 14 villages and eventually cut a path more than 60 meters in width through Goma.
As the lava consumed villages the heat engulfed buildings near the periphery of the lava flow. Within hours fires spread throughout the city, causing extensive damage to homes and communities and destroying nearly half of the buildings in Goma. By the 19th of January much volcanic activity had subsided however many large earthquakes continued for several months and even exist today.
Recounting the aftermath over 40 people became dust in the wind and hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless.
This eruption, the first since 1977, bears many similarities to the recent January eruption. The 1977 eruption, like this one, began suddenly with little warning, involved major crater floor collapse, and had fast moving lava flows. Unlike the recent eruption, however, the eruption of 1977 did not reach Goma. The extremely high speeds of the 1977 flows led death counts to the thousands. The lava moved swiftly through the night consuming sleeping villages, sweeping the unsuspecting to their demise.
The residents of our Hawaiian islands are not strangers to the destruction that eruptions many times bring. With all the recent events many natives as well as those who maintain an active interest in the islands wonder if such a rapid and sudden disaster could occur in the islands...