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1994: Zaire PDF Print E-mail

1994 : ZAIRE

Following the unspeakable butchery in Rwanda in 1994, more than a million frightened refugees fled across borders to Zaire. Most of these people were restricted to unclaimed, barren land on the slopes of the volcanoes NYAMURAGIRA and NYIRAGONGO, where people somehow managed to set up tiny "homes" on jagged a'a lava flows too rough for easy walking. No sooner had these wretched people arrived, however, when both volcanoes began to erupt. Nyiragongo is characterized by extremely fluid, fast-moving lava flows, and the last flank eruption (1977) had killed several hundred people. The threat to refugees and international aid efforts was thus extremely serious, and Tom Casadevall and I were sent by the USGS and the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to evaluate the situation, along with colleagues from France and Japan. Although the Nyamuragira eruption had ended and Nyiragongo was quiet when we arrived, the latter volcano soon roared back into activity. Fortunately, the threat posed by this eruption was less of a threat than was illness and politics, and our team concluded that increased monitoring of these volcanoes was adequate for the time being. Local violence has since made these efforts impossible......

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