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Volcanic Activity May Divide Africa November 6, 2009
Afar rift fissure
A section of a 35-mile-long fissure in Ethiopia that opened up during volcanic activity in 2005.
A new ocean is likely one day to separate northeastern Africa from the rest of the continent due to a developing rift similar to the one that split Africa from the Americas millions of years ago, according to researchers.

First evidence of the rift appeared in northern Ethiopia in September 2005 when a 35-mile-long fracture up to 20 feet wide developed during two volcanic eruptions.

Geological analysis since then confirmed that the process causing the rift is identical to those that occur deep on the ocean floor.

They are the main reason continents have gradually broken off and drifted from each other.

While the huge crack that appeared in 2005 took only a few days to develop, geologists say it will take millions of years for the new ocean to split Africa in two from the Red Sea to Mozambique.

Such a split would eventually push eastern and western parts of Kenya and Tanzania away from each other.

Ethiopia’s Afar region is one of the lowest and hottest places on the planet. It is known for it’s exotic volcanoes and salt mines that have been exploited by nomads for millennia.

Photo: Addis Ababa University