25 March 2019

Uganda: Ngora Rock - Govt Calms Tension As Fears Over Eruption Mount

Photo: Pixabay
An active volcano (file photo).

Ngora — At least 200 homes living close to Otukei rock in Okisimo Village, Ngora Town Council in Ngora District are in fear following developing cracks and boiling sound emerging from underneath the rock.

Locals have been treated to two sporadic sounds and some kind of smell from underground.

Mr John Otule, 75, a local living next to the rock told Daily Monitor that noise started on Monday last week, which was followed by running cracks.

"When I moved closer to the rock, I could see small pieces of rocks popping off from the mother rock," he explained.

Mr Otule added that later on Tuesday it made the loudest noise, prompting the locals to gather.

"I don't know where I will go because today (yesterday) the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has told us to relocate," Mr Otule expressed.

Mr John Ojwang, 80, said similar incidents happened in the early 1970's on the same Otukei rock for a period of more than two weeks but later it stopped.

He said when they had homestead count with the area LC3 of Ngora Town Council, close to 220 families live within the radius of 500 metres, which have been termed as a danger zone in case of an eruption.

Mr Richard Itulu, the head of Geography department in Ngora High School, said the rock seems to be an active Volcano, taking from the manner in which it is acting.

"I witnessed it make a sound blast, with some smoke emerging, it seems the heat underground has melted the hard rock into molten liquid which is now causing it to crack, and if it's an active rock, there are chances it may give way to forces underground," he said.

Ms Margaret Awekonimungu, the environment officer for Ngora District local government, said they have technically advised the locals living around to take precautionary measures by staying outside the 500 metre radius.

"I personally heard the sound from the rock on visiting the scene, I also saw small pieces of rocks fly off when the sound went off," she said.

Mr Francis Oluka, the deputy Mayor Ngora Town Council, said they are praying for the better adding that there is nowhere this people can relocate just in case it's an eruption in its earlier stages.

Ms Awekonimungu added that the cracks are running from the bottom of the rock, heading towards the peak.

She said at the upper surface of Otukei rock in Okisimo Village, there are two depressions, which they took note of with the team from Nema.

In a statement issued on Friday evening by the commissioner, Office of the Prime Minister, Government stated that the rock (Otukei) is a dormant rock, which during such dry spells develops cracks.

According to the statistics available at Ngora Local Government, Ngora District has more than 50 rocks scattered all over, stretching from the Kapir rocks down to Kobuin overseeing Pallisa District. Schools such as Ngora High school, Ngora Girls are just sandwiched between rocks vertically running up the skyline.

Government response

Changes. The communique issued by Martin Owor, the commissioner disaster department at Office of the Prime Minister, revealed that gases coming out of dormant volcano are normal and not necessarily a sign of getting re-active until scientifically proved.

Mr Owor said during the dry season, cracks accumulate and emit more heat waves which usually make its surrounding hotter.

"In the rare situation that a dormant volcano becomes active again, it sends increment signals over a reasonable period of time, there cannot happen a sudden eruption, the people leaving near Ngora rock should therefore remain calm and continue with their routine activities as scientists carry out tests to establish whether the sounds, cracks and heat are normal occurrences of dormant volcanoes or something new. The population will be advised from time to time," he said.

How volcanos errupt

1. Preparation phase: In the depths of the volcano, magma rich in dissolved gas fills the magma chamber. Tremors are often felt at the surface. The volcano expands.

2. Explosion: The explosion of pent-up gases pushes the magma up the conduit. Fused particles fall as ash. The pressure enlarges the conduit..

3. Eruption ends: The magma chamber empties. The walls of the conduit are weakened and collapse, creating a crater or caldera.

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