- Seismic activity and tremors have increased significantly on the Indian Ocean island Grande Comore during the last few days. Scientists expect an eruption of the islands volcano after a 12-year hibernation and plans for an evacuation of civilians are made.
The government of Comoros and UN agencies are closely monitoring the seismic activity on the Grande Comore Island as volcanic tremors have significantly increased over the past few days. Scientists fear a violent eruption of the Kartala volcano, the 2361 meter tall mountain dominating the island.
Already in mid-August, a highly increased rate of earth tremors had been noted by the island's population and the National Scientific Research and Documentation Centre. At that time, the seismic activity rate had increased by a factor of one hundred and scientists foresaw an eruption within weeks.
Today, UN agencies on Grande Comore inform of an even stronger increase of seismic activity. The World Food Programme (WFP) in its weekly 'Emergency Report' said UN agencies had now developed an evacuation plan for UN personnel.
The Comoran government has also recently established a contingency plan through the Crisis Unit for Civil Protection. "WFP is liaising with OCHA and UNDP in order to formulate an emergency response contingency plan should the situation deteriorate further," the agency reported.
The southern and central parts of the island are considered to be most at risk, with the northern part of the island considered safe. The Kartala volcano is situated at the centre of the southern half of Grande Comore. The Comoran capital, Moroni, lies at the western slope of Mount Kartala.
According to government figures, the island has a population of approximately 500,000 to 600,000 inhabitants. Precise population numbers for each village or specific area are however not available, "making estimations of populations potentially affected by a possible eruption difficult," WFP commented.
Mount Kartala last erupted in July 1991. At this occasion, no persons were killed although tens of thousands of villagers had to flee their homes. Earth tremors had increased to about 100 a day shortly before the eruption - the same level reached in mid-August.
The volcano is known to erupt in a cycle of approximately 11 years, and is one of two active volcanoes on Grande Comore. Two strong eruptions in 1972 and 1977 did significant damages as lava flows reached the ocean. In 1977, the coastal village of Singani was partly destroyed by lava flows.
The entire Comoran archipelago - with the four major islands Grande Comore, Anjouan, Moheli and Mayotte (the latter a French colony) - is created through volcanism in geologically modern times. The volcanoes are a result of the island of Madagascar's drifting from the African continent and subsequent tensions in the stretching sea floor.
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