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Aftermath Of Comoros Volcano Eruption

UN AGENCIES FOCUS ON PROVIDING CLEAN WATER IN AFTERMATH OF COMOROS VOLCANO ERUPTION

New York, Apr 29 2005 5:00PM

With fears receding – but not ruled out – that one of the world’s largest active volcanoes will again erupt in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros, United Nations agencies there are focusing their efforts on providing clean water for the thousands of islanders returning to their homes.

Rural populations in the Comoros rely on rainwater collected from roofs and stored in water tanks, which are often unprotected. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), following last week’s eruption of Mount Karthala, at least 720 water tanks in 36 villages have been polluted with volcanic debris, affecting about 39,000 people on Grande Comore, the main island in the Comoros chain.

After a preliminary chemical analysis revealed that the water stored in these tanks was turbid and had high chemical concentrations, populations in Dimani, Domba and Oichili have been recommended not to drink the water.

Late last week, the authorities launched an emergency plan to supply clean water to the affected populations with the support of humanitarian partners. As part of this plan, subterranean water is collected in Moroni and transported by truck to the affected villages. A total of 12 trucks are involved in the operation, of which two have been made available by the Government and 10 hired by UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Other agencies, including the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), have provided vehicles to support field operations, as well as fuel and funding to cover operational costs for 10 days. UNICEF has also provided five water tanks, and ordered another eight, which should arrive in the Comoros next week.

After sending thousands of panicked villagers fleeing their homes when the eruption began on 17 April, Mount Karthala has been largely stable and has not released any lava or toxic gas as initially feared. No deaths or injuries have been reported.

While the activity of Karthala has receded over the past week, vulcanologists do not rule out the possibility of a new eruption in the coming weeks or months. The majority of the people who had fled from their villages in the eastern part of the Grande Comore Island have reportedly returned to their homes, OCHA said.

2005-04-29 00:00:00.000

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