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Report on Cameroon (Cameroon) — March 1999

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 24, no. 3 (March 1999)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Cameroon (Cameroon) Eruptions and lava flows discharge from multiple S-flank vents

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1999. Report on Cameroon (Cameroon) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 24:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199903-224010.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Cameroon

Cameroon

4.203°N, 9.17°E; summit elev. 4095 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


During 1993 the Mt. Cameroon region (figure 3) experienced an earthquake swarm. Since then, the frequency of seismic events in the region had remained low, with a mean of 15 earthquakes per month, although some months had more than 30 events (BGVN 23:02). On 26 March 1999, although only one out of a network of six Institute for Mining and Geological Research (IRGM) seismographs was functioning, more than 15 seismic events were detected from the mountain. This increase in seismicity continued on 27 and 28 March, with more than 200 seismic events.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Map of part of western Cameroon showing Mt. Cameroon along with some local towns and villages. The Nigerian border (upper left) is indicated by "x" marks. Contour interval is 500 m. Map data for this area is from 1971 or earlier.

Around 1930 on 28 March a volcanic eruption began on the S flank at about 2,650 m elevation. According to news reports, earthquakes were felt up to 70 km away from the volcano, in Douala and Kumba, on 29 and 30 March. A second vent opened on the evening of 30 March at ~1,400 m elevation, and sent a voluminous aa flow SSW through dense equatorial forest toward the coastal village of Bakingili. This flow traveled swiftly down the steep upper slopes, but slowed to an estimated 10-25 m/hour on the gentle flanks of the coastal plain. The flow eventually consumed hundreds of hectares of forest and destroyed plantations of palm trees as it moved towards the Atlantic Ocean.

News reports noted that by 31 March there were nine vents. Twelve vents were located during an observation trip by a National Scientific Committee on 3 April. The vents were aligned along a pre-existing fracture zone bearing N40°E. At this time the two vents on the SW end were already in fumarolic a post-volcanic phase. The other ten vents exhibited strong explosive activity, emitting gases, lapilli, ash, and incandescent lava blocks. Scoriaceous bombs were ejected 500 m laterally from one vent. The aa lava flows divided into various branches, the largest of which was 3 km long. The lava-flow temperature measured at 300 m from one of the vents was 972°C.

The main hazards from this eruption were lava flows and volcanic ash, which was blown SW into villages along the coast. A few eye and respiratory problems were reported among residents. Because of the risk the government decided to temporarily evacuate Bakingili, the village closest to where the lava is expected to enter the ocean.

Mount Cameroon, one of Africa's largest volcanoes, rises above the coast of west Cameroon. More than 100 small cinder cones, often fissure-controlled parallel to the long axis of the volcano, occur on the flanks and surrounding lowlands. A large satellitic peak, Etinde, is located on the SW flank. Historical activity, the most frequent of West African volcanoes, was first observed in the 5th century BC by the Carthaginian navigator Hannon. During historical time, moderate explosive and effusive eruptions have occurred from both summit and flank vents.

An eruption during February-March 1959 produced a large E-flank lava flow. Increased seismicity was recorded in November 1975, but no eruption occurred. An eruption during October-November 1982 produced lava fountaining from a radial fissure 6.5 km SW of the summit and a lava flow that moved 12 km down the SW flank. Two towns were evacuated, and tephra caused damage to plantations. In 1989 a minor explosive eruption formed a new crater at 2,860 m on the SW flank. The first seismic network was installed in 1984 by the Ekona Unit for Geophysical and Volcanological Research (ARGV) of the IRGM.

Geologic Background. Mount Cameroon, one of Africa's largest volcanoes, rises above the coast of west Cameroon. The massive steep-sided volcano of dominantly basaltic-to-trachybasaltic composition forms a volcanic horst constructed above a basement of Precambrian metamorphic rocks covered with Cretaceous to Quaternary sediments. More than 100 small cinder cones, often fissure-controlled parallel to the long axis of the 1400 km3 edifice, occur on the flanks and surrounding lowlands. A large satellitic peak, Etinde (also known as Little Cameroon), is located on the S flank near the coast. Historical activity was first observed in the 5th century BCE by the Carthaginian navigator Hannon. During historical time, moderate explosive and effusive eruptions have occurred from both summit and flank vents. A 1922 SW-flank eruption produced a lava flow that reached the Atlantic coast, and a lava flow from a 1999 south-flank eruption stopped only 200 m from the sea. Explosive activity from two vents on the upper SE flank was reported in May 2000.

Information Contacts: B. Ateba, N. Ntepe, J. Nni, and R. Ubangoh, Ekona Unit for Geophysical and Volcanological Research (ARGV), Institute for Mining and Geological Research (IRGM), P.O. Box 370, Buea, Cameroon; J.V. Hell and J.M. Nnange, IRGM, P.O. Box 4110, Yaounde, Cameroon (URL: http://www.irgm-cameroun.org/); J. P. Lockwood and Jean-Baptiste Katabarwa, Geohazards Consultants International, Inc., PO Box 479, Volcano, HI 96785, USA (URL: http://www.geohazardsconsultants.com/), and Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20523 USA (URL: https://www.usaid.gov/who-we-are/organization/bureaus/bureau-democracy-conflict-and-humanitarian-assistance/office-us); Isaha'a Boh Cameroon, Media Research and Strengthening Institute, P.O. Box 731, Yaounde, Cameroon.