Some 17 years after the Mount Cameroon eruption, speculations are rife that the mountain is likely to erupt again any moment from now. “Scientifically, we have established a periodicity of the eruption of the Mountain that runs from 17 to 25 years. It’s 17 years since the last eruption, 1999-2000. So we are within that periodicity and can expect the eruption at any time” disclosed Dr. Charles Mafany Teke, a Geologist/Chief of Service in Charge of Innovation at the Southwest Regional Delegation of Research and Scientific Innovation in an interview he granted the GV recently.
Quizzed on the readings of the Mount Cameroon Volcano Monitoring station, which the government set up in 1984 to monitor activities of the mountain, the Geologist revealed that though no seismicity of major concern has been discovered, volcanic activities can be unpredictable.
“We see some anomalous activities where we have an increase in seismicity then it drops. As far as we are concerned, the mountain is quiet but activities may pick up and within less that 3 days it attends a very high proportion and there is an eruption. If I say the mountain is quiet today and there is an eruption tomorrow, I shouldn’t be quoted as somebody who said there wasn’t going to be an eruption. As you and I are talking, I don’t know what the seismography is reading in Ekona; it’s possible that it’s picking anomalous signals as we are talking. So if it erupts tomorrow, don’t come back here saying I said it was not going to erupt and it erupted” the Geologist quipped.
He advised that in case of an eruption, people should be vigilant and avoid panic because most people can die of pandemonium from stand pits than the direct effect of the eruption.
“If there is going to be an eruption and somebody goes on air and say lava is flowing down towards Buea so people should run; you will have accidents, panic, stand pits and people are going to die when probably the lava is not going to flow towards Buea. So people should listen to competent authorities because they will give the public information on how to behave before, during and after an eruption” Dr. Mafany advised.
Key Discoveries about Mount Cameroon
Given the active nature of Mount Cameroon, the Cameroon government in 1984 set up a monitoring station to monitor activities of the mountain. This was so that it could predict the eruption of the mountain. 32 years down the lane, Dr. Charles Mafany says a lot has been discovered about the Mountain.
One of such discoveries according to him is earth tremor.
“Eruptions on Mount Cameroon are preceded by earth quakes, and earth quakes are measured by way of magnitude. Those earth quakes of low magnitudes are difficult for humans to detect without the use of instruments. That’s what the monitoring station is doing. Before the 1999 eruption for example, we were able to see anomalous activities in seismicity of the mountain because there was an increasing frequency in the number of earth quakes per day that was some indication that there was some activities taking place beneath the mountain” He said.
Dr. Mafany disclosed that via monitoring, the periodicity of the eruption of the mountain has been established that is 17 to 25 years.
Hazards Prone Zones
The Regional Chief of Innovation said through monitoring activities, a hazard map for the Mount Cameroon Area has been produced. According to the map, Limbe, Bonduma, and a strip around Tole are susceptible to landslide while Lake Barombi in Kumba is susceptible to gaseous explosion. Meanwhile the South-western flank of the volcano stretching from Ngeme to Idenau, and part of Buea is susceptible to lava flow.
For areas prone to volcanic activity, Dr. Mafany advised communities to put up structures that are resilient to seismic activities,
“I haven’t seen any policy document that forbids 3 storeys. If you build up to 3 storey, that should be the maximum. If you go above three, it may be difficult for such building to withstand seismic activities. It is not the height of the building that matters, but the quality of construction. Take for example Japan has sky scrapers but the level of seismicity there far outweighs that of Cameroon. But in our area, the kind of engineer that we have is different so I would advise everybody not to go above 4 storeys” he recommended.
Dr. Charles Mafany explained that when anomalous activities are observed, Department of Civil Protection at the Ministry of Territorial Administration, which is in charge of managing both anthropogenic and natural disasters, is alerted. This department represented by the governor of the region, and at the divisional level it is the SDO, then calls for a crisis meeting. In that crisis meeting, all other stakeholders will be brought on board including the delegate of communication, who manages how this information goes out. This meeting will come up with management mechanisms before, during and after the eruption
The Geologist noted that there is no way man can run away from the volcano given its provision of fertile soil, good climate, tourism potentials. He said as hazardous as the volcano may be, we don’t need to have any fear but to peacefully co-exist with it.
By Ndimuh Bertrand Shancho