Lava flow hazard at Nyiragongo Volcano, DRC
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- Chirico, G.D., Favalli, M., Papale, P. et al. Bull Volcanol (2009) 71: 375. doi:10.1007/s00445-008-0232-z
Mt. Nyiragongo is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world for the risk associated with the propagation of lava flows. In 2002 several vents opened along a huge system of fractures, pouring out lava which reached and destroyed a considerable part of Goma, a town of about 500,000 inhabitants on the shore of Lake Kivu. In a companion paper (Favalli et al. in Bull Volcanol, this issue, 2008) we employed numerical simulations of probable lava flow paths to evaluate the lava flow hazard on the flanks of the volcano, including the neighbouring towns of Goma (DRC) and Gisenyi (Rwanda). In this paper we use numerical simulations to investigate the possibility of significantly reducing the lava flow hazard in the city through the construction of protective barriers. These barriers are added to the DEM of the area as additional morphological elements, and their effect is evaluated by repeating numerical simulations with and without the presence of barriers. A parametric study on barrier location, size, shape and orientation led to the identification of barriers which maximize protection while minimizing their impact. This study shows that the highest hazard area corresponding to eastern Goma, which was largely destroyed by lava flows in 2002, cannot be effectively protected from future lava flows towards Lake Kivu and should be abandoned. On the contrary, the rest of the town can be sheltered from lava flows by means of two barriers that deviate or contain the lava within the East Goma sector. A proposal for the future development of the town is formulated, whereby “new” Goma is completely safe from the arrival of lava flows originating from vents outside its boundaries. The proposal minimizes the risk of further destruction in town due to future lava flows.