Thousands flee eruption in eastern Congo

Carla Harmon
May 25, 2021

Aline Bichikwebo and her baby managed to escape when the lava flow reached her village, but said both her mother and father were among those who perished.

The UN peacekeeping mission said that it did not appear the lava was flowing towards Goma based on reconnaissance flights but untold thousands still set off in search of safety. He added that already, there are humanitarian groups on the ground working to help people who have lost their homes.

"People are wondering whether the volcano has stopped, or whether it will continue, whether the lava will reappear", another resident said.

Tourists who were near the crater when the volcano erupted are safe, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) tweeted, adding that the rare mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park, where Mount Nyiragongo is located, were also not threatened by the eruption.

But the military governor of North Kivu province said "the city was spared" after "the lava halted near Buhene on the outskirts of Goma". In addition to many homes, the lava destroyed several health centers, a primary school, a water pipeline and Goma's main electricity supply line, Muyaya said.

The volcanic eruption seems to have subsided, according to the Goma Volcano Observatory, which monitors the volcano. "We're waiting", said one man.

In Kinshasa, the capital, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, convened an emergency meeting, where the government activated an evacuation plan for Goma.

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi chose to cut short his trip to Europe and return home on Sunday so he could oversee the coordination of aid to the affected areas, his office announced via Twitter.

General Ndima said Monusco, the United Nations mission in the country, NGOs and global organisations in the DRC would hold an emergency meeting on the crisis later Sunday with local and regional authorities.

The first departures from Goma city came even before the official confirmation that Mount Nyiragongo had erupted at around 7:00 pm Saturday. Power was out in multiple locations throughout the city.

As the red glow of the volcano, one of the world's most active, tinged the nighttime sky above the lakeside city of about 2 million, some fled east toward the frontier with neighbouring Rwanda, while others escaped to the west.

Nyiragongo's last major eruption, in 2002, claimed around 100 lives.

Earlier this year, researchers working at the Goma Volcano Observatory reported signals that an eruption might be on the way.

Mount Nyiragongo's last eruption, in 2002, left hundreds dead and coated airport runways in lava.

Initial assessments indicated that the eruption didn't threaten the city itself.

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