Karisimbi

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 1.5°S
  • 29.45°E

  • 4507 m
    14783 ft

  • 223040
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

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    Number

Most Recent Bulletin Report: October 2010 (BGVN 35:10)


Nearly continuous gas plumes emitted from long-lived lava lake through October 2010

The following report describes a mudflow that caused 50 deaths on 16 May 2010 on the outer W flank of Karisimbi, a complex volcano with steep upper slopes and the tallest of the Virunga volcanoes (figure 1). The first section was summarized from early reports by relief organizations. The second section is from a later report by Innocent Badryio (United Nations Office for Project Services, UNOPS), Benoít Smets (Royal Museum for Central Africa), and Dario Tedesco (Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Naples, Italy), which clarified the source of the event after field and remote sensing surveys.

Figure 1. Annotated satellite image showing location of Kibiriga village situated ~6.5 km to the W of Karisimbi volcano and ~6.2 km SW of Mikeno volcano. Nyiragongo volcano is visible ~16 km W of Karisimbi. Date and type of imagery is unknown. Mudflows are not readily apparent in the image either because of issues such as cloud cover and resolution or most likely because the image was collected prior to the event. Note that international boundary lines often are drawn imperfectly on many satellite images and are unconfirmed here. Courtesy of OCHA.

Available reports did not attribute the mudflow to eruptive processes, seismicity, or gas emissions. Some early reports cited the sudden release of water from a crater lake, but that idea was later discounted. The later report (by Badryio, Smets, and Tedesco) attributed the mudflow to multiple factors, including heavy rains carrying loose debris into the regional drainage system. In addition, satellite images discussed in the later report revealed that the mudflows were more complex than the three branches that were reported initially (figure 2). Note that international boundary lines are not in agreement between figures 1 and 2.

Figure 2. Map showing the various branches of mudflows found to the W of Karisimbi volcano on 16 May 2010. Satellite data revealed that the flows were more complex than the three branches originally reported based on field observations. Note that international boundary lines often are drawn imperfectly on many satellite images and are unconfirmed here. Courtesy of Benoít Smets.

Initial reports. UNOPS reported that human casualties and extensive property damage occurred on 16 May 2010, when a mudflow occurred ~6.5 km W of Karisimbi. The flow, composed of mud, tree debris, rock, and soil, occurred between 0000 and 0100, in the locality of Kibiriga, in the area of Kibumba, on the border of the DR Congo and Rwanda (figure 1). UNOPS described the affected area as "situated between a steep slope (45%) on the flank of Karisimbi and Mikeno to the NE and a sort of plain having a 10% steeper slope to the SW."

UNOPS reported that the mudflow was preceded by torrential rains that began at 2200 on 14 May and lasted until 0550 on 16 May. Based on initial field interpretation, UNOPS described the flow as "subdivided in three directions, with a thickness ranging between 0.3 to 4 m and a width of 50 to 150 m. The length of the flow could surpass 1 km, from the edge of Virunga Park, situated upstream from the locality, to the alluvial cone downstream."

Volcanic rocks were carried by the mudflows in some areas (figure 3). One branch of mud and debris, in the direction from NE to SW, flowed through part of Kibiriga village, causing human casualties and extensive damage to homes and crops (figures 4 and 5). The extent of the damage was due to a combination of factors, including the steep slope above the village, the amount and type of soil that was washed down the slope, and the type of housing in the area. Rising population densities have led to the destruction of forest and vegetation in the area, which may have contributed to the event.

Figure 3. Volcanic rocks (on the order of decimeters) were carried by the mudflows in some areas near Karisimbi volcano on 16 May 2010. Courtesy of UNOPS.

Figure 4 illustrates that houses in the area were substantial, built of mud bricks and wood. They contained large vertical timbers and horizontal interlacing branches of substantial strength. However, the houses proved unable to resist the impact of the deep and fast-moving mudflows, which UNOPS reported to flow at speeds higher than 50 km/hour in some places. Given the speed and because the flow occurred at night when residents were sleeping, they had little chance to escape.

Figure 4. Mud flowed through homes in Kibiriga village near Karisimbi on 16 May 2010. Because of the high speed and because the flow occurred at night, many residents could not escape. Courtesy of UNOPS.

Witnesses observed layers of older mudflows in the beds of two new streams after the event, which they interpreted to mean that similar events have occurred in the past. An elderly witness stated that similar events occurred in 1951, 1956, 1970, and 1994, but without casualties or much damage. This person also reported that the odor "of a pigsty" accompanied the 2010 mudflow. UNOPS stated that the mudflow was accelerated and especially violent because of the presence of volcanic ash and pieces of lava in the soil, and that similar events have occurred in the area every 12 years, on average.

Later analysis based on satellite data. Badryio, Smets, and Tedesco confirmed that such events are not unusual in the Virunga region and have occurred several times during the last century. This is because the main edifices of dormant volcanoes in the Virunga volcanic chain (in DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda) are cut by networks of deep gullies serving as ephemeral streams carrying water and debris from a large area. During exceptionally heavy rains, torrents are able to mobilize large amounts of unconsolidated pyroclasts and soil. The streams develop fast-moving and potentially devastating mudflows.

The extremely heavy?but not unusual?rainfalls that occurred in the Virunga region during April to May 2010 triggered several mudflows in DR Congo, and damage also occurred in neighboring Rwanda. Badryio, Smets, and Tedesco reported that the 16 May mudflow in the village of Kibiriga killed ~50 people and destroyed 232 houses and 7 hectares of crops. This particular mudflow reached at least 3 m deep and carried large blocks, including rocks more than 2 m wide.

Before this event, this hazard was poorly understood, and the origin of the mudflows was misattributed to drainage of a lake located in the Muntango crater (S crater of Karisimbi). Later field and remote sensing surveys coupled with a bibliographic review led to a revised description of the event and its impact. The mudflows were mapped using satellite images (EO1-ALI) that were geographically corrected (orthorectified) using other data. A 2.5-m resolution image (SPOT) and digital elevation model (DEM) were used for interpretation of the relief and the hydrographic networks. Based on the satellite data, scientists concluded that the lake in the Muntango crater was not the source of the mudflows.

Satellite imagery also revealed that the paths of the mud were more complex than three single branches (figure 2). The mudflows in Kibiriga followed the existing hydrographic network until they reached human-modified soils, where the mud spread laterally in several branches.

Figure 5. A woman with child looks over a field covered with mud from the 16 May 2010 mudflow near Kibiriga village on the W flank of Karisimbi. The event caused human casualties and destroyed 7 hectares of crops. Courtesy of UNOPS.

Scientists concluded that there is a danger of similar future events in this region, especially because of the exponential demographic and urban growth coupled with deforestation and the subsequent increase in soil erosion. UNOPS suggested a cartographic study to delineate zones at risk for future similar events.

Information Contacts: Innocent Badryio, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo; Benoít Smets, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Department of Earth Sciences, Tervuren, Belgium; Dario Tedesco, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Naples 2, Caserta, Italy; Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma, Departement de Geophysique, Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles, Lwiro, D.S. Bukavu, DR Congo; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Kinshasa, DR Congo; World Health Organization, Bureau Du Representant De L’oms En Republique Democratique Du Congo (RDC), 42, Avenue des Cliniques, Gombe, Kinshasa.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Karisimbi.

Index of Bulletin Reports


Reports are organized chronologically and indexed below by Month/Year (Publication Volume:Number), and include a one-line summary. Click on the index link or scroll down to read the reports.

10/2010 (BGVN 35:10) Nearly continuous gas plumes emitted from long-lived lava lake through October 2010




Bulletin Reports

All information contained in these reports is preliminary and subject to change.


10/2010 (BGVN 35:10) Nearly continuous gas plumes emitted from long-lived lava lake through October 2010

The following report describes a mudflow that caused 50 deaths on 16 May 2010 on the outer W flank of Karisimbi, a complex volcano with steep upper slopes and the tallest of the Virunga volcanoes (figure 1). The first section was summarized from early reports by relief organizations. The second section is from a later report by Innocent Badryio (United Nations Office for Project Services, UNOPS), Benoít Smets (Royal Museum for Central Africa), and Dario Tedesco (Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Naples, Italy), which clarified the source of the event after field and remote sensing surveys.

Figure 1. Annotated satellite image showing location of Kibiriga village situated ~6.5 km to the W of Karisimbi volcano and ~6.2 km SW of Mikeno volcano. Nyiragongo volcano is visible ~16 km W of Karisimbi. Date and type of imagery is unknown. Mudflows are not readily apparent in the image either because of issues such as cloud cover and resolution or most likely because the image was collected prior to the event. Note that international boundary lines often are drawn imperfectly on many satellite images and are unconfirmed here. Courtesy of OCHA.

Available reports did not attribute the mudflow to eruptive processes, seismicity, or gas emissions. Some early reports cited the sudden release of water from a crater lake, but that idea was later discounted. The later report (by Badryio, Smets, and Tedesco) attributed the mudflow to multiple factors, including heavy rains carrying loose debris into the regional drainage system. In addition, satellite images discussed in the later report revealed that the mudflows were more complex than the three branches that were reported initially (figure 2). Note that international boundary lines are not in agreement between figures 1 and 2.

Figure 2. Map showing the various branches of mudflows found to the W of Karisimbi volcano on 16 May 2010. Satellite data revealed that the flows were more complex than the three branches originally reported based on field observations. Note that international boundary lines often are drawn imperfectly on many satellite images and are unconfirmed here. Courtesy of Benoít Smets.

Initial reports. UNOPS reported that human casualties and extensive property damage occurred on 16 May 2010, when a mudflow occurred ~6.5 km W of Karisimbi. The flow, composed of mud, tree debris, rock, and soil, occurred between 0000 and 0100, in the locality of Kibiriga, in the area of Kibumba, on the border of the DR Congo and Rwanda (figure 1). UNOPS described the affected area as "situated between a steep slope (45%) on the flank of Karisimbi and Mikeno to the NE and a sort of plain having a 10% steeper slope to the SW."

UNOPS reported that the mudflow was preceded by torrential rains that began at 2200 on 14 May and lasted until 0550 on 16 May. Based on initial field interpretation, UNOPS described the flow as "subdivided in three directions, with a thickness ranging between 0.3 to 4 m and a width of 50 to 150 m. The length of the flow could surpass 1 km, from the edge of Virunga Park, situated upstream from the locality, to the alluvial cone downstream."

Volcanic rocks were carried by the mudflows in some areas (figure 3). One branch of mud and debris, in the direction from NE to SW, flowed through part of Kibiriga village, causing human casualties and extensive damage to homes and crops (figures 4 and 5). The extent of the damage was due to a combination of factors, including the steep slope above the village, the amount and type of soil that was washed down the slope, and the type of housing in the area. Rising population densities have led to the destruction of forest and vegetation in the area, which may have contributed to the event.

Figure 3. Volcanic rocks (on the order of decimeters) were carried by the mudflows in some areas near Karisimbi volcano on 16 May 2010. Courtesy of UNOPS.

Figure 4 illustrates that houses in the area were substantial, built of mud bricks and wood. They contained large vertical timbers and horizontal interlacing branches of substantial strength. However, the houses proved unable to resist the impact of the deep and fast-moving mudflows, which UNOPS reported to flow at speeds higher than 50 km/hour in some places. Given the speed and because the flow occurred at night when residents were sleeping, they had little chance to escape.

Figure 4. Mud flowed through homes in Kibiriga village near Karisimbi on 16 May 2010. Because of the high speed and because the flow occurred at night, many residents could not escape. Courtesy of UNOPS.

Witnesses observed layers of older mudflows in the beds of two new streams after the event, which they interpreted to mean that similar events have occurred in the past. An elderly witness stated that similar events occurred in 1951, 1956, 1970, and 1994, but without casualties or much damage. This person also reported that the odor "of a pigsty" accompanied the 2010 mudflow. UNOPS stated that the mudflow was accelerated and especially violent because of the presence of volcanic ash and pieces of lava in the soil, and that similar events have occurred in the area every 12 years, on average.

Later analysis based on satellite data. Badryio, Smets, and Tedesco confirmed that such events are not unusual in the Virunga region and have occurred several times during the last century. This is because the main edifices of dormant volcanoes in the Virunga volcanic chain (in DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda) are cut by networks of deep gullies serving as ephemeral streams carrying water and debris from a large area. During exceptionally heavy rains, torrents are able to mobilize large amounts of unconsolidated pyroclasts and soil. The streams develop fast-moving and potentially devastating mudflows.

The extremely heavy?but not unusual?rainfalls that occurred in the Virunga region during April to May 2010 triggered several mudflows in DR Congo, and damage also occurred in neighboring Rwanda. Badryio, Smets, and Tedesco reported that the 16 May mudflow in the village of Kibiriga killed ~50 people and destroyed 232 houses and 7 hectares of crops. This particular mudflow reached at least 3 m deep and carried large blocks, including rocks more than 2 m wide.

Before this event, this hazard was poorly understood, and the origin of the mudflows was misattributed to drainage of a lake located in the Muntango crater (S crater of Karisimbi). Later field and remote sensing surveys coupled with a bibliographic review led to a revised description of the event and its impact. The mudflows were mapped using satellite images (EO1-ALI) that were geographically corrected (orthorectified) using other data. A 2.5-m resolution image (SPOT) and digital elevation model (DEM) were used for interpretation of the relief and the hydrographic networks. Based on the satellite data, scientists concluded that the lake in the Muntango crater was not the source of the mudflows.

Satellite imagery also revealed that the paths of the mud were more complex than three single branches (figure 2). The mudflows in Kibiriga followed the existing hydrographic network until they reached human-modified soils, where the mud spread laterally in several branches.

Figure 5. A woman with child looks over a field covered with mud from the 16 May 2010 mudflow near Kibiriga village on the W flank of Karisimbi. The event caused human casualties and destroyed 7 hectares of crops. Courtesy of UNOPS.

Scientists concluded that there is a danger of similar future events in this region, especially because of the exponential demographic and urban growth coupled with deforestation and the subsequent increase in soil erosion. UNOPS suggested a cartographic study to delineate zones at risk for future similar events.

Information Contacts: Innocent Badryio, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo; Benoít Smets, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Department of Earth Sciences, Tervuren, Belgium; Dario Tedesco, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Naples 2, Caserta, Italy; Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma, Departement de Geophysique, Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles, Lwiro, D.S. Bukavu, DR Congo; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Kinshasa, DR Congo; World Health Organization, Bureau Du Representant De L’oms En Republique Democratique Du Congo (RDC), 42, Avenue des Cliniques, Gombe, Kinshasa.

Karisimbi, the highest of the Virunga volcanoes, is a complex volcano with a symmetrical sharp-peaked summit. The 2-km-wide Branca caldera, located SE of the 4507-m-high summit, is filled by viscous lava flows and two explosion craters. The large, 1.2-km-wide Muntango pit crater is located south of the summit of the basanitic-to-trachytic volcano. A broad lava plain, formed from lava flows erupted within the caldera and along a chain of parasitic cones, extends SW. More than 100 parasitic cones erupted along a NNE-SSW zone that extends to the shores of Lake Kivu. The youngest Potassium-Argon date obtained is about 10,000 years before present (de Mulder, 1985). The youngest eruptions from Karisimbi produced a group of dome-shaped parasitic vents east of the caldera, which fed viscous lava flows that traveled as far as 12 km to the east, and lava flows from the SW-flank satellitic lava vents.

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
8050 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed   Potassium-Argon

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Cones

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Arbre Cone 3474 m
Bartholome, Pic Stratovolcano 4507 m 1° 30' 0" S 29° 27' 0" E
Bihiram Cone 2221 m
Bonde Cone 2545 m
Bugeshi Cone
Bulengira Cone 1° 35' 0" S 29° 20' 0" E
Bundjuli Cone
Bunyogwe Cone 1° 36' 0" S 29° 20' 0" E
Butaka Cone
Gwanguoa Cone
Hehu Cone 2430 m 1° 30' 0" S 29° 22' 0" E
Ingo Cone 2788 m
Kikombe Cone 1° 40' 0" S 29° 17' 0" E
Kinyangaki Cone
Kirerema Cone 2394 m
Lukuka Cone
Modenda Cone
Mongomane Cone
Musanula Cone
Ntobe Cone
Ruagare Cone 2363 m 1° 35' 0" S 29° 21' 0" E
Ruhara Cone 1° 36' 0" S 29° 19' 0" E
Rukondja Cone 1° 36' 0" S 29° 19' 0" E
Rungu Cone 1° 33' 0" S 29° 21' 0" E
Rushashu Cone
Rwamisega Cone 1° 35' 0" S 29° 20' 0" E
Tsanzergwe Cone 1° 39' 0" S 29° 20' 0" E

Craters

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Branca, Caldera Pleistocene caldera 1° 31' 0" S 29° 28' 0" E
Mulderi Crater 1° 31' 0" S 29° 28' 0" E
Muntango
    Hans Meyer Crater
Pit crater 1° 31' 0" S 29° 26' 0" E
Munyinya Crater 1° 31' 0" S 29° 28' 0" E
Sharp-topped Mikeno volcano (center) and Karisimbi volcano (right) are seen here from the east on the flanks of Nyamuragira volcano. Mikeno is an eroded Pleistocene volcano, but 4507-m-high Karisimbi, the highest volcano of the Virunga Range, is younger. The 2-km-wide Branca caldera is located SE of the summit of Karisimbi and is filled by viscous lava flows and two explosion craters. More than 100 parasitic cones extend along a NNE-SSW zone to the shores of Lake Kivu.

Photo by Henry-Luc Hody, 1989.
Karisimbi (upper left) is the highest of the Virunga volcanoes, rising to 4507 m. It is seen here in an aerial view with north to the upper left. The complex volcano has a symmetrical sharp-peaked summit. The large, 1.2-km-wide Muntango pit crater (lower right) is located south of the summit, and the 2-km-wide Branca caldera is located out of view to the right. The youngest eruptions from Karisimbi produced a group of dome-shaped parasitic vents east of the caldera, which fed massive lava flows to the east, and the SW-flank satellitic lava vents.

Aerial photograph courtesy of Henry Luc Hody (Belgian ambassador).
The Karisimbi volcanic complex (center) is the highest of the Virunga volcanoes. The symmetrical sharp-peaked summit is flanked to the SE by the 2-km-wide Branca caldera, which is filled by viscous lava flows and two explosion craters. The smaller Muntango pit crater is located south of the summit. A broad lava plain, formed from lava flows erupted within the caldera and along a chain of parasitic cones, extends SW. Eroded Mikeno volcano is at the upper left and Visoke volcano at the upper right of this Landsat image.

NASA Landsat image, 1999 (courtesy of Hawaii Synergy Project, Univ. of Hawaii Institute of Geophysics & Planetology).

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

de Mulder M, 1985. The Karisimbi volcano. Annales Musee Roy Afrique Central Ser 8 Sci Geol, 90: 1-101.

IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior..

Krafft M, 1990. Fuhrer zu den Virunga-Vulkanen. Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke, 187 p.

MacKay M E, Rowland S K, Mouginis-Mark P J, Garbeil H, 1998. Thick lava flows of Karisimbi volcano, Rwanda: insight from SIR-C interferometric topography. Bull Volc, 60: 239-251.

Marcelot G, Rancon J P, Demange J, 1985. The potassic series of Karisimbi volcano (Virunga Range, Rwanda): volcanological and petrological aspects. J Volc Geotherm Res, 26: 99-129.

Pouclet A, 1977. Contribution l'etude structurale de l'aire volcanique des Virunga, rift de l'Afrique centrale. Rev Geog Phys Geol Dynam, 19: 115-124.

Smithsonian Institution-GVN, 1990-. [Monthly event reports]. Bull Global Volc Network, v 15-33.

Volcano Types

Stratovolcano
Caldera
Pyroclastic cone(s)

Tectonic Setting

Rift zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Major
Trachybasalt / Tephrite Basanite
Trachyandesite / Basaltic trachy-andesite
Trachyte / Trachyandesite

Population

Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km
9,657
85,615
1,198,124
10,835,260

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Karisimbi Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.