Natural Hazards

, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 31–66 | Cite as

Natural hazards in Goma and the surrounding villages, East African Rift System

  • Charles M. Balagizi
  • Antoine Kies
  • Marcellin M. Kasereka
  • Dario Tedesco
  • Mathieu M. Yalire
  • Wendy A. McCausland
Original Paper


The city of Goma and its surrounding villages (Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC) are among the world’s most densely populated regions strongly affected by volcanic hazards. In 2002, Nyiragongo volcano erupted destroying 10–15% of Goma and forced a mass evacuation of the population. Hence, the ~ 1.5 million inhabitants of Goma and Gisenyi (Rwanda) continue to live with the threat of new lava flows and other eruptive hazards from this volcano. The current network of fractures extends from Nyiragongo summit to Goma and continues beneath Lake Kivu, which gives rise to the fear that an eruption could even produce an active vent within the center of Goma or within the lake. A sub-lacustrine volcanic eruption with vents in the floor of the main basin and/or Kabuno Bay of Lake Kivu could potentially release about 300 km3 of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 60 km3 of methane (CH4) dissolved in its deep waters that would be catastrophic to populations (~ 2.5 million people) along the lake shores. For the time being, ongoing hazards related to Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes silently kill people and animals, slowly destroy the environment, and seriously harm the health of the population. They include mazuku (CO2-rich locations where people often die of asphyxiation), the highly fluoridated surface and ground waters, and other locally neglected hazards. The volcanic gas plume causes poor air quality and acid rain, which is commonly used for drinking water. Given the large number of people at risk and the continued movement of people to Goma and the surrounding villages, there is an urgent need for a thorough natural hazards assessment in the region. This paper presents a general view of natural hazards in the region around Goma based on field investigations, CO2 measurements in mazuku, and chemistry data for Lake Kivu, rivers and rainwater. The field investigations and the datasets are used in conjunction with extremely rich-historical (1897–2000) and recently published information about Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes and Lake Kivu. We also present maps of mazuku and fractures in Goma, describe the volcanic eruption history with hazard assessment and mitigation implications, and consider social realities useful for an integrated risk management strategy.


Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes Lava flows hazards Mazuku hazards Dental fluorosis Volcanic gas and ash hazards Lake Kivu stability Limnic eruption 



The authors are grateful to the Virunga National Park for providing rangers for security assistance during field work at Nyiragongo. This paper is specially dedicated to the green helmets who have died protecting the park. We also thank the Monusco (the UN mission in RD Congo), who provided a helicopter to fly over the volcanoes and for field work in the crater of Nyamulagira. Finally, we acknowledge reviews from Shaul Hurwitz and Bill Evans (for the USGS revision), comments and recommendations from John P. Lockwood, one other anonymous reviewer, all of which improved the manuscript, and the editorial handling of Thomas Glade.


Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geochemistry and Environmental DepartmentGoma Volcano ObservatoryGomaDemocratic Republic of the Congo
  2. 2.Laboratory of Radiation Physics, Physics & Materials Research UnitUniversity of LuxembourgLuxembourgLuxembourg
  3. 3.Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and TechnologiesSecond University of NaplesCasertaItaly
  4. 4.Volcano Disaster Assistance ProgramU.S. Geological SurveyVancouverUSA

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