The Most Dangerous City in the World

On the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the perilous Nyiragongo volcano towers 3470m over the city of Goma. The wildly erratic volcano is one of the most active on the planet, famous for the violent 200-metre-wide lava lake cradled in its vast summit crater, constantly emitting deadly gases and huge geysers of liquid rock. In 1977 and 2002, the volcano spewed deadly molten rock towards the million inhabitants of Goma, killing hundreds, forcing evacuations and destroying homes—but these were just small disturbances compared to what Nyiragongo is capable of unleashing. The volcano has an intricate ‘plumbing’ system like roots of a tree snaking deep underground, with vents not just at its summit but all around it, and so the threat to Goma is very immediate, and it has been dubbed ‘the most dangerous city in the world’ by researchers. The question is not if the volcano will erupt, but when. And yet, Nyiragongo is one of the least studied volcanoes in the world, because for the past twenty years, the Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced almost constant warfare. A deeper understanding of Nyiragongo must be gained in order to prevent a catastrophe, but serious research has only begun in the past few years. Until we can predict its activity, the question of when? will haunt scientists and seismologists alike, and will determine the fate of nearly one million people.

(Image Credit: Carsten Peter)


The permanent lava lake of the Nyiragongo Crater is the biggest in the world with an estimated 282 million cubic feet of lava. The volcano’s rim lies 11,380 feet above the ground. At 1,300 feet deep, the lava lake has created one of the many wonders of the African continent. (Source)


The Virunga Mountains form a formidable barrier across the western arm of Africa’s Rift Valley, a major fracture zone in the earth’s crust. Located to the north of Lac (Lake) Kivu, the chain of volcanic peaks extends west to east for about 80km (50 miles). Highest of the eight major peaks in the group is Karisimbi at about 15000ft (4507 meters). According to local legend, its snow-capped summit is the eternal resting place of the souls of the pure and virtuous. By contrast, the westernmost peak in the range, Nyiragongo 11382ft (3470 meters), is said to be the place where doomed souls are sent to expiate their sins.

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Mount Nyiragongo And Its Bubbling Hot Lava Lake

Few volcanoes are as spectacular as Mount Nyiragongo. Known for its active lava lake and (relatively) frequent eruptions, this incredible volcano has the potential for widespread disaster. Unfortunately, political unrest prevents the scientific community from studying the dangerous volcano in depth. But as seen in these breathtaking images, scientists and photographers have still been able to capture the bubbling, fiery lava that churns within the mountain’s lava lake.


I can’t like this clip enough. Two different volcanoes in Virunga National Park erupting at the same time. Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, at night, with some star trails, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This is a lava lake which appears in the summit crater of Nyiragongo volcano. It is the biggest lava lake on the planet with an estimated 282 million cubic feet of lava

It is one of the most active volcanoes in Africa and is located inside the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

When it last erupted in 2002, 400,000 people had to be evacuated as the lava can flow at up to 60 miles/hour, leaving no time for last minute escapes.

In 2010, a team of scientists and intrepid explorers stepped onto the shore of the lava lake boiling in the depths of Nyiragongo Crater. 

See the amazing photos here: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/02/nyiragongo_crater_journey_to_t.html


For a brilliant video, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egEGaBXG3Kg&feature=related

To see a previous post on the lava lake, go here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=382225075171876&set=pb.352857924775258.-2207520000.1349712132&type=1&theater