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 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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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.

Our 7th deadliest active volcano is: Mt. Nyiragongo

Mt. Nyiragongo, in Democratic Republic of Congo, is one of the most active volcanoes on the African continent. It’s well known for its large lava lakes, which frequently appear in its crater. Nyiragongo poses a unique threat to surrounding communities, as nowhere in the world does a steep sided stratovolcano carry such a large lake of fluid lava. In fact, from 1894 to 1977, Nyiragongo’s summit crater was filled with a large, active lava lake.

When the walls of the crater fractured on Jan 10, 1977, the lava lake drained within an hour, causing massive lava flows of over 60 miles per hour. These flows quickly overwhelmed local villages, causing several thousand people.In 2002, another major eruption at Mt. Nyiragongo caused a lava stream to flow through the provincial capital of Goma. Fortunately, the 400,000 residents had already been evacuated, but 147 people still died as a result of the eruption. 4,500 buildings were destroyed in Goma, leaving 120,000 people homeless. Ensuing tremors destroyed even more buildings.


Videographer captures a series of clips overlooking the active lava lake at Nyiragongo Volcano. The geologist in me really liked the shot of the crater rim - the collapse of the crater has left a cross section view through dozens, perhaps hundreds of eruptions. That plus…you know, lava lake.

Mount Nyiragongo is an 11,000-foot active volcano in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Virunga National Park. Inside the 2km wide crater atop the volcano is the largest lava lake on the planet. There are park huts on the rim of the crater, where you can sleep 20 feet away from a 1000-foot cliff, leading down towards the lake of lava. Sitting along the edge, you can watch the continual churning of the lava lake, which is one of the most mesmerizing things to watch, as the orange cracks contrast against the darker cooled lava slowly move and transform at the surface of the lake.
In April of 2015, I spent two nights sleeping up on the rim of the volcano and watching the lava.
Production music courtesy of Epidemic Sound

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