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Congo Was Warned About Volcano

Goma volcanologist Dieudonne Wafula recently warned local authorities that the 11,380-foot Mount Nyiragongo volcano would erupt soon. No one paid attention, and four days later the volcano unleashed red-hot lava over 40 percent of Goma, killing hundreds of people and displacing half a million.

Jacques Durieux, a French volcano expert, received an e-mail from Wafula last week saying Nyiragongo was getting ready to erupt. The French expert was not the only one to receive Wafula?s warning. Japanese volcano experts were brought into the area, but that they discounted Wafula?s predictions.

In a recent issue of a monthly Goma newspaper, Wafula warned local residents that they could expect an eruption in coming weeks. He says he made the prediction after observing 10 times more lava in the volcano?s crater than in 1977, when Nyiragongo erupted and killed hundreds of people. Wafula has been tracking Mount Nyiragongo and a nearby volcano since the 1970s. ?Wafula has done a beautiful job with limited equipment,? says Durieux, who is advising the United Nations on Mount Nyiragongo.

Durieux, who runs the Group for the Study of Active Volcanoes in Lyons, says that even though earth tremors can still be felt several times a day in Goma and surrounding areas, Nyiragongo is no longer an immediate threat. He viewed the volcano from a U.N. helicopter with Wafula. ?The phase of the active eruption is over,? he says. ?The volcano is quiet.?

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