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Authorities in the Comoros Islands placed the population of the tiny Indian Ocean nation on red alert on Saturday following several seismic tremors triggered by a volcanic eruption on Mount Karthala.
There were no immediate reports of damage and the government held back from ordering residents to evacuate their homes as a red glow could be seen over the top of the volcano, just 15km from the capital Moroni.
Hamid Soule, head of the Karthala observatory, told reporters that the eruptions had begun overnight.

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Grande Comore

43.36417E_11.76562S
Position 43.36417E, 11.76562S

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The 2,361-metre high Mount Karthala, one of the world's largest active volcanoes, sent lava pouring down it`s sides, on the Indian Ocean island of Grande Comore on Sunday.

Karthala last erupted in April 2005, affecting as many as 40,000 residents and forcing thousands to flee in fear of poisonous gas and a possible magma flow.
Volcano scientist Hamidou Nassor said Sunday's activity also amounted to an eruption but it was too soon to tell how dangerous this one would be.

"Effectively there is an eruption but we don't know yet if there will be any gas. There is a risk of a lava flow but we don't know yet which direction. It is urgent that we get a helicopter there to assess what is going on" - Hamidou Nassor.

African Union troops, who were in Comoros for the May 14 election, were expected to fly over the volcano on Monday morning to try to determine the direction of the lava flow in case evacuations are needed along its path.
In November, Mount Karthala sent clouds of ash and sparks over the island, blanketing the capital Moroni and other villages in grey dust. Moroni is about 15 km from Karthala's crater.

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On November 24, 2005, 2,000 people fled their homes, hoping to escape the latest eruption of the Karthala Volcano. The volcano covered nearby villages in ash.


Expand (297kb, 1600 x 1200)

The Terra satellite captured this image on November 25, 2005. In this image, Grand Comore appears only in outline as material from the eruption completely obscures the satellite’s view of the land surface. The volcanic ash ranges in colour from tan to beige. It has spread out around the volcano in all directions, but moves primarily eastward.

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Water supplies to more than 100,000 people in the Indian Ocean Comoros islands have been contaminated by the eruption of one of the world's largest active volcanoes.
Mount Karthala sent clouds of ash and sparks flying late on Thursday, leaving the capital Moroni and other villages on the main island of Grande Comore covered in ash.



"Concerns exist regarding the availability of potable water in the areas exposed to smoke and ashes. Preliminary results from the assessment indicate that as many as 118,000 persons living in 75 villages may be affected by the contamination of water tanks" - report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).



The Shield volcano rises to a height of 2,361 metres on the southern end of Grand Comore, the largest island in the nation of Comoros.

OCHA is concerned about the impact of the pollution from volcanic debris on agriculture and livestock. Approximately 2,000 people fled their villages in the region of Bambao in the central part of the island, and have sought refuge in less exposed areas.
In April, a volcanic eruption hit the eastern part of the island, affecting around 40,000 residents and forcing thousands to flee in fear of poisonous gas and a possible magma flow.


11.75° S 43.38° E

It was the first eruption in more than decade on the archipelago nation, 300 km off the coast of east Africa.
Seismographic data collected by the Karthala Volcanologic Observatory has shown seismic activity continuing.

"According to the observatory, a lava lake is in formation in the crater, as of yet confined within the crater" - OCHA.

The islands have largely escaped major destruction from the volcano, which has erupted every 11 years on average over the last 200 years, but has had several close calls.

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