Damage from lava flows: insights from the 2014–2015 eruption of Fogo, Cape Verde

Publication type

Journal Article

Research Area

Risk and Society


Fast-moving lava flows during the 2014–2015 eruption of Fogo volcano in Cape Verde engulfed 75% (n = 260) of buildings within three villages in the Chã das Caldeiras area, as well as 25% of cultivable agricultural land, water storage facilities and the only road into the area. The eruption had a catastrophic impact for the close-knit communities of Chã, destroying much of their property, land and livelihoods. Volcanic risk assessment typically assumes that any object - be it a building, infrastructure or agriculture - in the path of a lava flow will be completely destroyed. Vulnerability or fragility functions for areas impacted by lava flows are thus binary: no damage in the absence of lava and complete destruction in the presence of lava. A pre-eruption field assessment of the vulnerability of buildings, infrastructure and agriculture on Fogo to the range of volcanic hazards was carried out in 2010. Many of the areas assessed were subsequently impacted by the 2014–2015 eruption and, shortly after the eruption ended, we carried out a post-eruption field assessment of the damage caused by the lava flows. In this paper, we present our findings from the damage assessment in the context of building and infrastructural vulnerability to lava flows. We found that a binary vulnerability function for lava flow impact was appropriate for most combinations of lava flow hazard and asset characteristics but that building and infrastructure type, and the flow thickness, affected the level of impact. Drawing on these observations, we have considered potential strategies for reducing physical vulnerability to lava flow impact, with a focus on buildings housing critical infrastructure. Damage assessments for lava flows are rare, and the findings and analysis presented here are important for understanding future hazard and reconstruction on Fogo and elsewhere.

Publication Details


Journal of Applied Volcanology





Date Published



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