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01 Jun 2006 17:46
Seismic activity in the only active volcano on the Comoros islands ceased on Thursday after a spectacular but contained eruption created eerie red clouds over the Indian Ocean archipelago this week.
Five days after it first spewed fiery jets of lava into its main crater, covering the entire surface with molten rock and putting nervous residents in its shadow on alert, Mount Karthala quieted down, scientists said.
“The seismic signal is null,” said vulcanologist Julie Morin, one of a team of experts from the nearby French island of Réunion that has been studying the mountain’s latest eruption.
“Eruptive activity has thus stopped for the moment,” she said, stressing that it is too early to say if the latest eruption is completely finished.
Residents of the Comoran capital of Moroni, just 15km away from Mount Karthala, said large red clouds that had been hovering over the volcano had disappeared by mid-day.
The unusual colour had been caused by intense red and orange lava that lit up plumes of smoke belched by the volcano and bubbled but did not escape the crater.
The 2 361m volcano on the main island of Grand Comore last erupted in November, spewed huge plumes of ash that blanketed the isle and temporarily deprived its 250 000 inhabitants of potable water.
Last April, nearly 10 000 villagers living at the base of the mountain fled their homes after similar emissions of ash sparked widespread fears of drinking water contamination.
Mount Karthala last had an overflow magma eruption in 1977, when lava destroyed the village of Singani, about 20km south of Moroni, and toxic gas was released into the air but did not cause any deaths.—Sapa-AFP
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