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Report on Karthala (Comoros) — 13 November-19 November 2005


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
13 November-19 November 2005
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2005. Report on Karthala (Comoros). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 13 November-19 November 2005. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (13 November-19 November 2005)



11.75°S, 43.38°E; summit elev. 2361 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

According to news reports, a phreatomagmatic eruption occurred at Karthala during the evening of 24 November. Ash fell in several towns, including in the capital city Morini along the Grand Comore island's SW coast and on the volcano's W flank. According to a UN OCHA report, local authorities estimated that about 2,000 people temporarily fled their villages in the region of Bamboa in the central part of Grand Comore Island, and sought refuge in less exposed areas, such as Mitsamiouli, Mboudé, and Oichili. During the evacuation, an infant died due to respiratory distress. Ashfall caused the closure of shops and schools in Moroni and security forces cleaned the streets using water tankers. Residents were warned to avoid inhaling ash. Preliminary assessments revealed that about 118,000 people living in 75 villages may have been affected by the contamination of domestic water tanks. This is of particular concern because it is the height of the dry season. A UN worker reported that 245,000 people live in the area exposed to ash and estimated that 175,000 could face water shortages. There were also concerns about the impact of ash on agriculture and livestock.

The Toulouse VAAC reported that ash from the early phase of the eruption was not immediately seen on satellite imagery, but that ash fell at the local airport. AFWA reported that the ash cloud was visible on satellite imagery on 25 November at a height of ~11.6 km (~38,000 ft) a.s.l. According to the Karthala Volcano Observatory, a lava lake formed in the volcano's crater. As of 29 November, seismic activity continued at the volcano.

Geological Summary. The southernmost and largest of the two shield volcanoes forming Grand Comore Island (also known as Ngazidja Island), Karthala contains a 3 x 4 km summit caldera generated by repeated collapse. Elongated rift zones extend to the NNW and SE from the summit of the Hawaiian-style basaltic shield, which has an asymmetrical profile that is steeper to the S. The lower SE rift zone forms the Massif du Badjini, a peninsula at the SE tip of the island. Historical eruptions have modified the morphology of the compound, irregular summit caldera. More than twenty eruptions have been recorded since the 19th century from the summit caldera and vents on the N and S flanks. Many lava flows have reached the sea on both sides of the island. An 1860 lava flow from the summit caldera traveled ~13 km to the NW, reaching the W coast to the N of the capital city of Moroni.

Sources: Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), IRIN News, US Air Force Weather Agency, News 24