Piton de la Fournaise, puts on a show

Piton de la Fournaise IRT/Luc Perrot - Images d'archives

Published on 18 February 2019

Piton de la Fournaise, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, began erupting for the first time in 2019 on Monday 18 February at 9.48am. The lava spurted out for around 12 hours. Just over 24 hours after the end of the first eruption of the year, Piton de la Fournaise woke up again! And there it was, erupting again on Tuesday 19 February late in the day.

An initial short eruption

Since Saturday 16 February 2019 at 3.21pm local time, major seismic events have been recorded on the instruments of the Piton de la Fournaise Volcanological Observatory, which forecast an imminent eruption. The long-awaited spectacle was short-lived since the Piton de la Fournaise Volcanological Observatory has not recorded any signs of activity since Monday 18 February at 10.00pm local time. The Prefect of Reunion therefore decided to move to standby phase at 3.30am on Tuesday 19 February 2019. However, flows are still visible from the Route des Laves, and even from Route Nationale 2, from Grand Brûlé. According to the information provided by the volcanological observatory, eruptive fissure(s) opened up in the Dolomieu crater area, the north-northeast sector, at a high altitude.

In just two days, Piton de la Fournaise delivers up a second eruption

Following the resumption of sustained seismic activity under the eastern flank of the volcano at 3.00pm local time on Tuesday 19 February, a volcanic tremor signifying the fact that magma had nearly reached the surface was recorded two hours later. At first very weak, the intensity gradually increased until 5.50pm, when the first observations of several new fissures were made by a team from the observatory within the Fouqué enclosure, below the eruption of 18 February 2019.The Prefect therefore decided to implement alert phase 2-2 "eruption in progress within the enclosure" of the specific ORSEC* volcano plan on Tuesday 19 February. The lava spurting from a fissure on the eastern flank of Dolomieu is still visible from the RN2 in an area between Anse des Cascades (Sainte-Rose) and the northern part of Tremblet (Saint-Philippe). Public access to the Fouqué enclosure from the Pas de Bellecombe trail or from any other trail, as well as aircraft drop-off within the volcano area, is prohibited until further notice.

See the Piton de la Fournaise webcam
Let's hope the activity continues a while longer to satisfy the many visitors who are coming to the site.
It comes after a 2018 full of activity, with four eruptions on 3 April, 27 April, 13 July and 15 September, the last and longest eruption of 2018. In terms of putting on a show, a large part of the eruption took place behind the scenes, in the lava tunnels. The new volcanic cone born from this latest eruption in the south-west of the enclosure was named after the deceased Creole writer and storyteller Daniel Honoré. As another highlight, the landscape of the volcano has been transformed: the Chapelle de Rosemont, a very old crater particularly well-known to hikers heading for the top of the volcano, has been almost completely engulfed by lava, a landmark until now popular with hikers who would climb to the summit of the Bory and Dolomieu craters.
The volcano represents no danger for the population. Many activities related to Reunion’s volcano are organised by professionals:
  • The Cité du Volcan, located in Plaine des Cafres, opens its doors so you can discover the history of the Piton de la Fournaise.
  • Book a helicopter or microlight flight to admire this imposing natural phenomenon from the sky.
  • Become a great explorer for a few hours, visiting the lava tunnels for an extraordinary adventure.
Use the services of a Mountain Guide to discover Reunion in complete safety.
Feel free to contact one of the tour operators who offer tours on the theme of Reunion’s volcano. Find them at reunion.fr.     
Rain, fog, cold, heat and sun - check out the advice of the Prefecture of Reunion before heading off to the volcano.