DR Congo's Mount Nyiragongo erupts, sparking mass evacuation

Ruben Hill
May 25, 2021

Goma was thrown into panic on Saturday evening as Mount Nyiragongo erupted, turning the night sky an eerie red and sending a wall of orange lava downhill towards the lakeside city of about 2 million people.

According to an AFP correspondent at the scene, the molten rock, which the eruption had sent close to Goma airport on the shores of Lake Kivu, still appeared unstable, but had come to a standstill in the suburbs of the eastern city.

"There is a smell of sulphur".

On Saturday, Communications Minister Patrick Muyaya had said that the government had activated an evacuation plan and was "discussing the urgent measures to take at present". "And by God's grace it is over", said one resident in Kibati, about 15km north of Goma. However, the airport appeared to be spared the same fate as 2002 when lava flowed on to the runways.

"President Tshisekedi has made a decision to interrupt his stay in Europe to return home this Sunday in order to supervise the coordination of aid to populations in areas threatened by this volcanic eruption", according to a tweeted statement, released on the president's official account. "It appears that the eruption has stopped", it tweeted.

Experts were anxious that the volcanic activity observed in the past five years at Nyiragongo mirrors that in the years preceding eruptions in 1977 and 2002.

There was no official word on deaths or injuries amid the scramble to flee the city late on Saturday. At least 3,000 fled across the nearby border into Rwanda.

Resident Richard Bahati said he was incredibly anxious about the eruption: "I lived through this volcano problem in 2002".

General Ndima said Monusco, the United Nations mission in the country, NGOs and global organisations in the DRC will hold an emergency meeting later Sunday with local and regional authorities to discuss the crisis. "That's why I'm scared again this time".

People tried to douse the flames as the lava flowed, engulfing parts of the city and roads.

Thousands of Congolese, including children, women and old people, have sought refuge in neighbouring Rwanda as the volcano erupted.

Nyiragongo's last eruption in 2002 killed 250 people and left 120,000 homeless.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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