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volcano cities Goma Pasto Catania Kagoshima Hilo Naples

May 20, 2017 Comments (0) Views: 445 Urban Trekker

Volcano cities: Goma, Pasto, Catania, Kagoshima, Hilo and Naples

Living with the fact that a volcano with the capacity to diminish the entire city you live in, sitting just a few kilometers away must be nerve-wracking.

Given the overpopulation on planet Earth at this moment, chances are, that no matter from where you are reading this article, there isn’t probably a volcano sleeping in the outskirts of your city. However, some people might not be as lucky as you are. Must be a nervous feeling having some supervolcano for a neighbor anyway.

Koryaksky volcano towering over Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on Kamchatka Peninsula, Far Eastern Russia, Photo By Tatyana Rashidova

While the majority of volcanoes around the world are asleep and they do not resemble any kind of danger, there are the other ones, designated as Decade Volcanoes and they are under the close watch by scientists and volcanologists. To clarify what Decade Volcanoes are, according to Science Daily, “A volcano may be designated a Decade Volcano if it exhibits more than one volcanic hazard (people living near the Decade Volcanoes may experience tephra fall, pyroclastic flows, silicic lava flows, lahars, volcanic edifice instability, and lava dome collapse); shows recent geological activity; is located in a populated area (eruptions at any of the Decade Volcanoes may threaten tens or hundreds of thousands of people, and therefore mitigating eruption hazards at these volcanoes is crucial); is politically and physically accessible for study; and there is local support for the work.

There are more than a dozen such volcanoes scattered around our planet, and it is unpredictable when they could go erupt. We thought you might want to find out something more about a few of them.

Goma – Mount Nyiragongo

In the heart of Africa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there is the Virunga National Park. Inside the park lurks the Mount Nyiragongo, a deadly volcano that has erupted dozens of time since the late 19th century. Nearby is the city of Goma, the first larger residential area that could be severely affected in case of an abrupt eruption.

View of houses in Goma, 2014, photo credit

An eruption as of 1977, still in living memory, has caused the volcano’s lava lake to drain swiftly, sending off torrents of highly fluid molten rock racing down the volcano’s slopes at a speed of up to 100 km per hour. The violent eruption diminished entire villages in the volcano proximity taking the lives of at least 70 people. According to other reports, the death toll was much much higher than that.

A more recent eruption that occurred in 2002, streamed lava up to 1 kilometer wide and two meters deep, and reportedly, it went right through the center of the city of Goma. 400,000 residents of Goma have been evacuated, fortunately, thanks to the warning that has been sent on time. 47 people also died in the events due to inhaling carbon dioxide.

Lava Lake of the Nyiragongo Volcano in Virunga National Park in Eastern DRC, photo credit

Nothing could really save the buildings that stood in the lava’s path though. About 15% of the city’s infrastructure was entirely destroyed, leaving almost 100,000 people shelterless. Despite that, locals have returned and rebuilt, presuming their lives before the hazard.

Pasto – Galeras

From Africa to South America. There, boiling in Columbia, Galeras counts for the most active volcano in the country. It is situated near the city of Pasto, a city that has suffered enough from eruptions that have occurred over the past couple of years. Pasto has a population of approximately 450,000 people, and they are under a constant threat of a new volcanic activity.

Also known as San Juan de Pasto, this city is located in the Atriz Valley on the Andes cordillera, at the very foot of the Galeras volcano, and at an altitude of 2,527 m, photo credit

The most exposed belt of Galeras, an area of the city that is the home of some 8,000 people is almost always ready to evacuate. In fact, these people have been regularly been forced to do so. An incident as of 1993, has claimed the lives of six volcanologists and three visitors who were at the top of the volcano when an abrupt eruption has occurred.

View at the Galeras volcano, photo credit

Catania – Mount Etna

Perhaps a volcano you might be more familiar with is Mount Etna, casting a shadow over the city of Catania, in Sicily, Italy. This volcano is deemed to have an almost constant level of activity.

Historically speaking, one of its biggest and most violent eruptions have occurred in 1669 when lava has reached the city walls of Catania, breaching them in one section and causing damage.

Panoramic view of Catania Etna Volcanos Sicilia Italy Castielli, photo credit

As of more recent days, a blast has occurred on May 12, 2011, after which the local Catania airport was shut down from operations due to thick layers of ash that blocked its runaway. Although the 2011 was nothing in comparison to the distant events of 1669, it could be a warning for more turbulent activities which are yet to happen. In other words, that would mean an evacuation of roughly 300,000 residents of Catania alone, added also other towns and villages in the proximity of Etna.

Giacinto Platania, Catania reached by the lava during the 1669 eruption of Mount Etna. Fresco in the Cathedral of Catania.

Kagoshima – Sakurajima

Kagoshima is the capital city of the Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan and is situated at the south-western tip of the island of Kyushu in Japan. A popular nickname that goes for this city is “Naples of the Eastern world” thanks to its bay location, hot climate, and emblematic stratovolcano named as Sakurajima.

From top left: Kagoshima and Sakurajima, Statue of Saigō Takamori, Kagoshima Castle, Sengan-en Garden, Statue of Ōkubo Toshimichi, the night view from Shiroyama, photo credit

Kagoshima is rather a young city, established officially in 1889. Despite that, it is a densely populated city numbering a population of 700,000, living under the shadow of the stratovolcano. Sakurajima has been venting smaller explosions perpetually ever since 1955. So far, no major hazard has taken place, though, it may come at any moment.

“The City now covered deep in ashes and, facing it, the cause of the disaster: Kagoshima and the volcano of Sakurashima on the right of the latter an islet which, according to tradition, is the top of the volcano, blown off during a former eruption.” (1914)

A 1914 eruption has spread clouds of ashes in the area, but major casualties weren’t observed. The lava flows lasted for months and they were so immense that connected what was then a volcanic island to the mainland forming a peninsula.

Hilo – Mauna Loa

If you ever wondered which might be the largest volcano on the planet in terms of volume, the answer is Mauna Loa. Since 1984, this Hawaiian volcano is asleep, but that doesn’t mean anything. Mauna Loa is a like a sleeping dragon that could go raging at any moment, directly threatening the city of Hilo, a home of some 45,000 people. Hilo is a real volcano city, erected atop of old lava flows from the 19th century.

A lava flows from Mauna Loa during its 1984 eruption.

It is without a doubt that Mauna Loa can easily throw its rivers of molten rock yet once again. In an eruption from 1935, the volcano went so violent, that planes had bombs dropped on the lava path to save Hilo. During the course of that eruption, lava had reportedly passed 24 kilometers in the time span of only three hours. In 1984, Mauna Loa was angry again, this time reaching with its lava just four kilometers away from Hilo’s boundaries.

Photos collage of Hilo, Hawaii, photo credit

In the past, entire villages have disappeared under the lava of this giant. As Frank Trusdell of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has warned: “Mauna Loa will erupt again, and there’s a good chance that it will be during your lifetime.”

Naples – Mount Vesuvius

If you work as a volcanologist, perhaps nothing causes more fear into your heart as much as thinking about the next Vesuvius eruption. Mount Vesuvius is probably already ringing a bell in your mind. It sits nine kilometers east of the Italian city of Naples and its historically famous for having destroyed entire cities of Ancient Rome – Pompeii, and Herculaneum as of 79 AD.

View of the Port of Naples (Maritime Station front view) Naples, Campania, Italy, South Europe, photo credit

The eruption of 79 AD is not the most tormentful eruption in the history of this volcano. At least three stronger ones have been observed. Vesuvius is still an active volcano and magma is well boiling in its belly. If it explodes again, Naples and its one million residents are under a direct threat.

Vesuvius erupting. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection (1923)

We can be sure that Vesuvius hasn’t gone down for the count. Looking back over the last few thousand years, which for a volcano is a very short period of time, Vesuvius has had 42 eruptions that rank as VEI 3 or larger. On that Volcano Explosivity Index, VEI 3 means that over 10,000,000 cubic meters (2.9 billion gallons!) of volcanic ash and debris erupted,” further reports Wired.

A photo showing Mt Vesuvius erupting 1944

 

The area around the volcano is now densely populated, photo credit

When and what will be the consequences of the next Vesuvius eruption is a question of the future. All we can do is rely on the experts who are able to provide accurate predictions about potential hazardous eruptions, so to save the lives of the people who are at the immediate danger.

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