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June 23, 2021

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Residents flee as volcano erupts near Congolese city of Goma

3 min read
Congo Goma

Goma

There has been a volcanic eruption in the Eastern city of Goma in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fountains of high lava burst into the sky from the Ngirangongo mountain causing smoke and red ash to cover the night sky over the city of about two million people. The eruption has caused panic among residents with many already fleeing to safety.

The government has started making quick arrangements to evacuate the residents to safe place as they try to assess damage

The military in Congo says a major city threatened by a massive volcanic eruption has been spared. They say molten lava that was streaming toward Goma came to a stop just a few hundred meters from the city limits.

Authorities had urged Goma’s two million residents to evacuate after Mount Nyiragongo erupted for the first time in almost two decades. But many accuse them of responding too late, after thousands had already fled into neighboring Rwanda. The flowing lava made this road impassible:

When Mount Nyiragongo erupted Saturday evening, people quickly packed some belongings and fled.

There were widespread power outages in the nearby city of Goma. Residents were unsure of where to find a safe haven. Mount Nyiragongo is in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, close to the border with Rwanda. It’s considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes.

Its last eruption in 2002 killed 250 people. As lava approached Goma’s airport on the eastern edge of the city, officials urged residents to evacuate. New fractures opening in the volcano allowed lava to flow south toward the city center.

AIRPORT UNTOUCHED

The flow towards Goma appeared to have stopped a few hundred meters from the city limits, one Reuters reporter said. The nearby airport was untouched.

A separate lava flow that headed east over unpopulated terrain towards Rwanda also appeared to have stopped, the reporter said.

Lava crossed a main road out of Goma, cutting if off from cities to the north. Traffic was in gridlock in most places as people tried to leave or return to assess the damage to their homes.

We don’t know what to do

On the streets of Goma, panic spread quickly.

The first departures from the city came even before the official confirmation of the eruption came. Power was out across much of the city on Saturday night and phone lines were busy, according to Reuters.

“We are panicked because we have just seen the entire city covered by a light that is not electricity or lamps,” said John Kilosho. “We don’t know what to do. We don’t even know how to behave. There is no information.”

Others fled to the city centre from villages and neighbourhoods threatened by lava on the northern outskirts.

The lack of immediate announcements from authorities and conflicting accounts circulating on social media only added to the sense of chaos in Goma.

Authorities at the Goma Volcano Observatory initially said it was the nearby Nyamulagira volcano that had erupted. The two volcanos are located about 13 kilometres apart.

Volcanologist Charles Balagizi said the observatory’s report was based on the direction in which the lava appeared to be flowing, which was toward Rwanda rather than Goma.

Goma sits along the border between Congo and neighbouring Rwanda, and is a regional hub for many humanitarian agencies in the region, as well as the UN peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO.

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