Volcano erupts in eastern Congo, thousands flee Goma

Volcano erupts in eastern Congo, thousands flee Goma

Nyiragongo volcano, one of the world's most unsafe volcanoes, according to experts, erupted a few kilometers from Goma, the capital of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It was not immediately clear if an evacuation was going ahead on the ground.

The lava reached the city's airport early Sunday, with an official from Virunga National Park - where the volcano is located - telling his staff: "the situation is deteriorating".

The first departures from the city came earlier Saturday even before Mount Nyiragongo erupted spewing red fumes into the night sky.

The last time Nyiragongo erupted was January 17, 2002, killing more than a hundred people and covering nearly all of the eastern part of Goma with lava, including half of the airport's landing strip.

Agence France-Presse learned that a United Nations helicopter made a reconnaissance flight over the volcano.

There was no direct report on any losses, but observers stated that lava already had submerged one highway that joins Goma with the city of Beni in North Kivu region. "We remain on alert", it said. There was no official word on how many may have been killed amid the scramble to flee the city late Saturday.

"There are a lot of people on the road, a lot of cars, it's an escape", one man with his family in his vehicle told AFP.

At this stage, he said, "the other districts of the city were not in danger" as the lava was unlikely to reach those areas.

"We were eating when a friend of dad's called him on the phone and told him to go and look outside", said Mbulayi, who was still a child the last time the volcano erupted.

She also blamed authorities "for not informing us in time about the possible volcanic eruption".

The lack of immediate announcements from authorities and conflicting accounts circulating on social media only added to the sense of chaos in Goma. "There is a risk that the lava will flow on Goma - you never know", another said. The two volcanos are located about 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) apart.

There is a strong sulfur haze over the city, and volcanologist Dario Tedesco told Reuters he saw large amounts of lava flowing from the volcano. At least 3,000 fled across the nearby border into Rwanda. While Goma is home to many United Nations peacekeepers and aid workers, much of the surrounding eastern Congo is also under threat from a myriad of armed groups vying for control of the region's mineral resources.

Related Articles