TANZANIA: Authorities urge residents to move from volcano area

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tanzanian authorities are persuading people in villages near Ol Doinyo Lengai to move to safer areas after the volcano erupted.

Since July, areas around Ol Doinyo Lengai have been hit by earth tremors as a result of volcanic activity. The earthquakes caused panic in settled areas, including the Kenya capital, Nairobi.

The mountain has spewed smoke and discharged lava since the beginning of September.

"We don’t have a comprehensive evacuation programme for about 5,000 residents of the Engaresero village on the slope of the mountain, but for the time being we are persuading them to understand the risk," Jowika Kasunga, district commissioner for Ngorongoro, the local area, told IRIN on 14 September.

"People are worried but they are still in their homes. Many are reluctant to leave because they regard the village as a 'shop'. It is like telling someone to close the shop because many youth survive by assisting tourists who want to climb the mountain, which in Maasai means mountain of God," Kasunga said.

Tanzania's chief geologist on 19 July advised residents living close to the Ol Doinyo Lengai to stay at least 50km away from the mountain.

As a precaution, Abdul Mruma, chief executive officer of the Geological Survey of Tanzania, added: "The safest distance to stay away, however, is 100km."

The most powerful quake, on the afternoon of 17 July, was estimated at 5.9 on the Richter scale.

The United States Geological Survey, which has been monitoring the tremors, said that available information was "not sufficient to determine if the current activity reflects a geologic process that might lead to a change in the eruptive behavior of Ol Doinyo Lengai". The last major eruption of the volcano was in 1966.

Source: IRIN