The exploding lake Kivu is on fire… Did the deadly eruption of Nyiragongo Volcano overturn the reservoir full of gas?


Lake Kivu contains about 300 billion m3 of carbon dioxide and 60 billion m3 of methane gas, giving it the capacity to produce between 120 million and 250 million m3 of methane gas annually. Now, you probably understand why panic and fear has gripped communities in Rwanda and Congo after the sudden and deadly eruption of Nyiragongo volcano on Saturday, which is situated just 20-25 miles away…

lake kivu on fire, lake kivu on fire video, lake kivu on fire video may 2021, exploding lake kivu on fire video
Lake Kivu is on fire. Picture via Youtube video

The likelihood of flow of extremely hot magma into the waters of Lake Kivu and the resulting seismic unrest are feared to potentially cause a deadly explosion.

lake kivu fire, lake kivu explosion may 2021
map of earthquakes in Goma, DR Congo, on May 25, 2021…

Rwanda’s Lake Kivu is indeed one of the world’s three “exploding lakes” and is at serious risk of “overturn.”

As shown in the map below, the Nyiragongo volcano is just 20 miles away from Goma and lake Kivu.

Goma Lake Kivu nyiragongo volcano map
Map of Goma, Lake Kivu and Nyiragongo Volcano in Congo. via Researchgate

What is a lake overturn?

An overturn occurs when the gases at the bottom of a lake are disturbed and rise to the surface, creating a deadly fog that kills.

In more simpler terms an overturn is a process whereby huge amounts of carbon dioxide are released from under its surface, suffocating everyone in the surrounding areas.

Some recent footages, captured just 2 days after the eruption and the following earthquake, show Lake Kivu on fire. Just look by yourself:

Natural or man-made?


So did the latest major geological events in the region launched the overturn in Lake Kivu?

Other exploding lakes have already erupted deadly

In Cameroon two lakes with characteristics to Rwanda’s Lake Kivu have previously exploded, causing a widespread disaster. The first recorded limnic eruption occurred at Lake Monoun in 1984, causing asphyxiation and death of 37 people.

In 1986, Lake Nyos released a cloud of Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, killing 1,800 people and 3,500 livestock in nearby towns and villages. 

Since then, engineers have been artificially removing the gas from the lake through piping.

What about Lake Kivu explosion risk

In comparison, Lake Kivu is 2,000 times larger and thus presents a disaster threat of monstrous proportions.

Lake Kivu has about 300 billion m3 of carbon dioxide and 60 billion m3 of methane gas, giving it the capacity to produce between 120 million and 250 million m3 of methane gas annually.

Some scientists say that the ever-expanding volumes of carbon dioxide and methane in Lake Kivu, coupled with the nearby volcanic activity, make a limnic eruption highly likely at some stage in the future unless degassing occurs. Rwanda has thus embarked on the extraction of some of the 60bn cubic metres of methane in the water.

The shores of Lake Kivu are much more densely populated and with such a natural disaster, millions of lives could be lost.

and maintains a gas extraction, processing and compression plant to sell methane domestically and abroad. [Taarifa]

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