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Report on Cameroon (Cameroon) — April 1999


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 24, no. 4 (April 1999)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Cameroon (Cameroon) Eruption ends before lava reaches the sea

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1999. Report on Cameroon (Cameroon) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 24:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199904-224010



4.203°N, 9.17°E; summit elev. 4095 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Following two days of increasing seismicity, on 28 March a volcanic eruption began on the S flank at about 2,650 m elevation (BGVN 24:03). A second set of fissure vents opened on 30 March at ~1,400 m elevation, and sent a voluminous aa flow SSW through dense equatorial forest toward the coastal village of Bakingili. Twelve vents were located during an observation trip by a National Scientific Committee team on 3 April. The upper vents were aligned along a pre-existing fracture zone bearing N40°E. Ten vents exhibited strong explosive activity, emitting gases, lapilli, ash, and incandescent lava blocks.

A French group, led by Jacques-Marie Bardintzeff, observed eight small cones (5-60 m high) aligned along the upper fissure during 13-14 April. On the evening of 13 April (1730-1930) four cones were active, three of them emitting white vapor. The NE-most cone was degassing strongly from two vents. At the beginning of the night red glow was visible above this cone, and some incandescent bombs were ejected 200 m high every few minutes. Activity was similar during 0900-1200 on 14 April, except for the NE-most cone, which produced two gray turbulent columns until 1000. Abundant sublimates were seen around each vent, and on a cone towards the SW end of the fissure.

Between 9 and 17 April the lava flow from the lower fissure was regularly observed by the French group. The flow, several hundred meters wide and ~10 m thick, was progressing at several meters per hour as blocks collapsed from the front. On the morning of 10 April the front was at 120 m elevation, 600 m from the Limbe-Idenau road near the Atlantic coast, between Batoke and Bakingili. By the evening of 11 April the front, now 150-200 m wide and 30 m thick, had progressed another 30 m with 3-4 m blocks collapsing from it. The flow had slowed on the coastal plain where, according to news reports, considerable damage was done to palm, rubber, and banana plantations.

There were conflicting reports on the exact location of the front during 12-13 April, although Isaha'a Boh reported that at mid-day on 12 April lava was still flowing from a crater at ~1,400 m elevation. The French group noted that on the evening of 14 April the 20-m-thick incandescent front was progressing at 7-15 m/hour, and was only 100 m from the road. By the next morning the flow was 5 m from the road. Throughout most of 15 April the front did not progress significantly, but three other lateral lava lobes developed. By 1900 the first incandescent block had fallen on the road, which was completely closed by 2300 that night. During a helicopter flight with the Cameroon volcanological team on 16 April, 100 m of the road was seen by the French group to be covered by a 10-m-thick lava flow.

Jack Lockwood and colleagues noted that the last glow from the 1,400-m vent was seen on 14 April, and lava production probably ended about this time. The alkalic basalt lava flow eventually extended 6-7 km from its source and cut the Limbe-Idenau road on 15 April. By then the 10-12-m-thick aa flow was very sluggish; it had ceased all forward movement by 17 April, about 200 m from the coast.

Occasional small earthquakes and possible minor volcanic tremor persisted until 22 April. News reports indicated that by 22 April the temperature of the lava flow across the highway had decreased enough that people were climbing over it. The head of the Cameroon scientific team monitoring the eruption, Samuel Ayonge, stated in the press on 20 May that there were still some sporadic earthquakes, and minor fumarolic emissions were still coming from the last two of the 13 craters formed during the eruption, but that eruptive activity had stopped on 17 April.

Inhabitants of the W-flank villages of Batoke and Bakingili had been evacuated on 11 April. According to news reports, the villages were not directly threatened by the lava flow, but there was concern over the health risks to residents if the flow entered the sea. The 600 evacuees all returned to their homes during 25-27 May.

Geological Summary. 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: J. Nni, Ekona Unit for Geophysical and Volcanological Research (ARGV), Institute for Mining and Geological Research (IRGM), P.O. Box 370, Buea, Cameroon; 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); Jacques-Marie Bardintzeff, Laboratoire de Petrographie-Volcanologie, bat. 504, Universite Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay, France; Henry Gaudru, Patrick Barois, and Marc Sagot, European Volcanological Society, CP 1, 1211 Geneve 17, Suisse; Isaha'a Boh Cameroon, Media Research and Strengthening Institute, P.O. Box 731, Yaounde, Cameroon.