The sky over the city of Goma, capital of the North Kivu province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), turned red on Saturday night when the Nyiragongo volcano erupted, sowing panic in the city and causing the flight of thousands of people.
“We saw a big red cloud and that’s when the panic started, we saw massive movements of people towards the border with Rwanda and towards the west of the city,” says Tom Peyre-Costa, regional spokesman for Central and West Africa of the Council. Norwegian for Refugees (NRC).
The provisional death toll is five people who died in a traffic accident while trying to flee from the provincial capital, located about 20 kilometers from the volcano, the military governor of North Kivu, Constant, informed this Sunday in statements to local media. Ndima.
Around seven in the afternoon local time (17:00 Spanish peninsular time) on Saturday the eruption of the volcano began, which is one of the most active in the world and is usually climbed by tourists who want to contemplate the lava lake housed in its crater, confirmed volcanologist Celestin Kasereka Mahinda , director of the city’s Volcanological Observatory.
Initially, the scientist assured that, “due to the direction of the lava, it does not seem that it is going to enter Goma” , something that the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) also considered after conducting reconnaissance flights in the area.
The alarm went off again when a new breach opened in the volcano releasing a river of lava that was moving in the direction of the city, something that prompted the authorities to activate an evacuation plan for Goma during the early hours of the morning.
This morning, however, the country’s Ministry of Communication and Media confirmed via Twitter that “the lava flow stopped around 4:00 am in Buhene (a town on the outskirts of Goma).”
“There were different flows but only the last one was heading towards the city, which caused the evacuation of many NGOs, but at four in the morning we learned that the lava had stopped a few meters from the airport,” explains Peyre-Costa.
Flight of thousands of people
Thousands of inhabitants terrified by the eruption of the volcano fled the city last night, carrying belongings and livestock, heading west, to the town of Sake, or towards the border with Rwanda, which at least 8,000 people crossed , according to official data from the Ministry of Emergency Management of this country.
This Sunday he saw the inhabitants who fled yesterday return little by little to their neighborhoods, but “the great desolation is that they find their houses and other goods burned , and the same for those who had fled to Sake,” he explained to Efe by phone. Prince Badjeka, a resident of Goma.
Although the lava did not reach the city, hundreds of houses on the outskirts have been destroyed, reduced to ashes, according to provincial authorities.
Although, finally, the population of Goma is not being evacuated because “there is no more volcanic activity,” the people who have lost their homes “will have to be relocated,” the NRC regional spokesperson said.
A foreseeable disaster
On May 11, the Volcanological Observatory of Goma already warned in a report on the situation of the two active volcanoes in the Virunga mountain range —Nyamulagira and Nyiragongo— where it assured that “they are very active, particularly the Nyiragongo, where they are observed some sporadic hybrid earthquakes “.
Nyiragongo volcano last erupted in 2002, forcing some 300,000 people to flee lava “floods” that covered much of Goma and killed about 200 people.
The Virunga National Park, located in the eastern province of North Kivu, one of the most affected by violence in the DRC is one of the few tourist destinations in this central African nation, and is a World Heritage Site since 1979.