Erta Ale volcano (Ethiopia): German tourist killed - probably by accident
Wed, 6 Dec 2017, 10:0710:07 AM | BY: T
Very sad news arrives from the Danakil desert where last Sunday 3 December a German tourist died and his Ethiopian guide got injured while they were climbing Erta Ale. The two were part of a larger tourist group which had traveled from Mekele and was making their way up to the summit of the volcano.
Watching the lava lake of Erta Ale at dusk (image: Ingrid Smet / VolcanoAdventures)
The early reports in international news media suggest that the incident was a deliberate attack by an armed militia group or bandits, similar to the deadly attack carried out in January 2012 by the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Front who killed 5 tourists and abducted several others whilst they were visiting Erta Ale volcano.
The information that we received from our colleagues in Addis Ababa who have been organizing expeditions to Erta Ale for almost 2 decades suggests it could have been a tragic accident rather than a deliberate armed attack. They have been in touch over satellite phone with their local Afar contacts as well as colleagues who are guiding tourist groups on the volcano right now and whom shared the following version of the event:
The German tourist who tragically lost his life seems to have been cut off from his tour group whilst hiking up to Erta Ale. The local guide who remained with him was not a dedicated Afar guide familiar with Erta Ale so that the pair were not on the right ´track´ to the volcano´s summit when it got dark. (it is very difficult to find any route across Erta Ale´s vast lava fields and flows who look the same in all directions, especially so in the dark). What might have happened next is that armed guards on Erta Ale who saw two individuals making their way up to the summit along the non-common track mistook them for a threat and opened fire, sadly killing the German tourist and wounding his local guide. The rest of the German tourist´s group seems to have continued their travel and today 8 new tourist groups arrived safely at Erta Ale as there is no indication for an armed conflict or any hostile militia in the area.
So far, there is no official confirmation for either version of the circumstances of the incident but we expect the Ethiopian government to issue a statement within the next few days. Meanwhile we stay in regular contact with our local partners and will update the story if new information emerges. For the moment it seems that other tour groups continue to visit Erta Ale as planned and our partners will also carry out an Erta Ale expedition scheduled to leave this Sunday. As a tour organizer to active volcarnoes such as Erta Ale both us and our partners on location are carefully monitoring the safety situation. We will thereby not hesitate to take adequate action and cancel any upcoming tours if we deem the situation on the ground to be too dangerous.
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