May 28, 2006

Comoros volcano spews lava, residents flee

MORONI (Reuters) - Lava spewed from a volcano on the Indian
Ocean island of Grande Comore on Sunday, lighting up the sky
and sending scores of frightened residents onto the streets.

Residents of Moroni, the capital of the Comoros islands,
said they could see lava at the top of 2,361-meter (7,746-ft)
Mount Karthala, one of the world's largest active volcanoes.

Karthala last erupted in April 2005, affecting as many as
40,000 residents and forcing thousands to flee in fear of
poisonous gas and a possible magma flow.

It was the volcano's first eruption in more than decade on
the archipelago nation, 300 km (190 miles) off the coast of
east Africa.

The majestic crag and its fertile slopes covered in vanilla
vine plantations form most of Grande Comore, the main island in
the Comoros chain.

The islands have largely escaped major destruction from the
volcano, which has erupted every 11 years on average over the
last 200 years, but has had several close calls.

In November, Mount Karthala sent clouds of ash and sparks
over the island, blanketing the capital Moroni and other
villages in gray dust. Moroni is about 15 km (9 miles) from
Karthala's crater.

The Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros covers three
small volcanic islands -- Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli --
in the Mozambique channel 300 km (190 miles) northwest of