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South Sudan Online:
Special Zaire/Rwanda Volcano Emergency Section A UN ReliefWeb and GDIN Cooperative Information Exchange

Edited by the IO Bureau, US Department of State, Washington, DC

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The following are two computer-generated images of volcanic activity in former Zaire at Nyamuragira (Nyamulagira), which together represent a good understanding of the concept of "right information, right format to the right people on time." The first was posted on December 3rd, 1996 in response to a request from the UN in Nairobi. It was provided by the US Department of State as a benefit to relief operations in former Zaire in order to help relief workers locate some refugees on a slope, as well as to examine the risk to thousands of refugees below the volcano. The second image examines the same area at a later date. These experiences help lead the Department of State to a new direction in the provision of GIS material, called GDIN, the Global Disaster Information Network The Department of State accomplished the mission in about eight hours in 1996; but the lesson learned from the exercise was that was needed was an international consortium of providers of GIS and remote sensing (overhead, ground, ocean, etc). This consortium needs to be linked as well to people who understand the telecommunications limitations of the developing world, and also those with an appreciation of the knowledge base of the recipient. This experience, and similar ones, is what led State to create the international element of GDIN, the Global Disaster Information Network.

Questions: What if the State Department officer that coordinated this effort had been out that day, could not find a satellite with an appropriate sensor, or could not cause the owner of the platform to take a "picture?" There is no Internet in Zaire (now the DRC) and the Internet in Kenya is weak. What if he had tried to send a real satellite photo to Nairobi? What he did was fax a black and white GIS product (there are no color printers near the volcano, email the image to Nairobi and post it on the Internet in record time. This complex set of activities is what the organizers of GDIN want to accomplish on any given day in GDIN, find the right providers who can supply the right information in the right format to the right people on time. You will find more information on ReliefWeb. Feel free to copy these images, but give credit to International Emergency Information Program, IO/SHA, US Department of State, Washington, DC. Note that the lava flow does appear to be threatening several populated areas. For background on this project, go to

Map of Nyamuragira Volcano -- 3 December, 1996
also spelled NYAMLAGIRI, volcano in the Virunga Mountains of east-central Africa, 15, miles (24 km) northeast of Sake, in the volcano region of Virunga National Park, Congo, (Kinshasa). It is about 10,023 feet (3,055 m) high, with a central crater that last erupted in 1938, when the southwest slope opened, and the lava flow reached Lake Kivu to the south.

Late Breaking News on the Volcano, provided by the GDIN Standards Committee: 3/11/01

Volcano eruption sends thousands fleeing, endangers water supply. Nairobi/Goma (dpa) - Tens of thousands of people have fled the slopes of a volcano near the town of Goma in eastern Congo, a humanitarian official said Monday.

The eruption of Nyamuragira, a 3,055-metre volcano 23 kilometres north of Goma, is being described as its worst since 1982.

Yo Winder, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said by telephone from Goma that lava is streaming down the side of the volcano and gas is spewing out of its craters.

``More dangerous than the lava is the poisonous gas and the ash,'' Winder said. ``The gas and ash are threatening the drinking water reserves.''

It is not known whether any deaths have occurred as a result of the eruption of Nyamuragira, which is one of a chain of volcanoes in this mountainous part of eastern Congo. Nyamuragira was involved as well in one of the events that led up to the creation of GDIN.

It is also unclear how many people are living around the volcano as the area has been the site of refugee flows in and out. Goma is home to 200,000 people. Winder said the number who have left their homes is in the tens of thousands.

``Our people tell us of a lot of diarrhea and breathing difficulties and a lot of people are having trouble with their eyes,'' she said. She expressed concern for food security because settling ash could kill crops. ``If the eruption doesn't stop soon the whole harvest will be damaged,'' she said. The eruption has been going on since February 5. A U.N. assessment team visited the area in late February and reported that much cultivated land has already been burnt out by ash, trees have been destroyed and some water supplies polluted.