'Limnic Eruption' of Lethal Carbon Dioxide Possible at Lake Kivu
'Limnic Eruption' of Lethal Carbon Dioxide Possible at Lake Kivu

GOMA, THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO — After an eruption at the Democratic Republic of Congo's Mount Nyiragongo volcano, there are fears that a 'limnic eruption' could occur at a nearby lake, spewing out suffocating gas, Reuters reports.

The specific concern is that carbon dioxide trapped at the bottom of Lake Kivu could erupt out and be carried toward the nearby cities of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gisenyi in Rwanda, endangering more than 690,000 lives, according to the AFP.

Nyiragongo, a nearly 3,500-meter or 11,500-foot-high stratovolcano that sits atop the East African Rift tectonic divide erupted on Saturday, releasing two rivers of lava that took 32 lives and left around 20,000 people without homes.

In the wake of that eruption the Goma Volcano Observatory, cited by AFP, has warned that Nyiragongo could erupt again and lava from it could reach Lake Kivu.

If there was also an earthquake beneath the bottom of the lake, or if magma erupted into it from below, pressure changes in the water could release some of the 300 cubic kilometers of carbon dioxide contained within the lake, according to the science journal Nature.

Should this happen, thousands of people around Lake Kivu could be asphyxiated, the Goma Volcano Observatory warns.