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Sabtu, 22 Mei 2021

Volcano erupts in Congo near Goma city, lava reaches airport as residents flee - ABC News

Congo's Mount Nyiragongo has erupted for the first time in nearly two decades, turning the night sky a fiery red and sending lava onto a major highway as panicked residents tried to flee Goma, a city of nearly 2 million people.

Witnesses said lava engulfed one highway that connects Goma with the city of Beni in North Kivu province.

As the lava flowed south toward the city, it reached the airport on the edge of town, volcanologist Dario Tedesco, based in Goma said.

New fractures were opening in the volcano, letting lava flow south toward the city after initially flowing east toward Rwanda, said Mr Tedesco.

"It's similar to 2002. I think that the lava is going towards the city centre. It might stop before or go on. It's difficult to forecast."

Smoke and flames rise from the volcano as the sky truns red over the city.
No evacuation order was given by authorities.(

Reuters: Olivia Acland

)

Nyiragongo's last eruption in 2002 killed 250 people and left 120,000 homeless. It is one of the world's most active volcanoes and is considered among the most dangerous.

The UN peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO tweeted dramatic footage of the city alight, saying it was conducting reconnaissance flights over Goma, where it maintains a large base.

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"The lava doesn't seem to be headed toward the city of Goma. We remain on alert," it said.

But Mr Tedesco said a second fracture had opened in Mount Nyiragongo, allowing the lava to flow toward Goma.

Authorities at the Goma Volcano Observatory initially said it was the nearby Nyamulagira volcano that had erupted, only adding to the confusion.

The two volcanos are located about 13 kilometres apart.

Goma sits along the border between Congo and neighbouring Rwanda, and is a regional hub for humanitarian agencies.

Chaos as people flee city of 2 million

Traffic is stopped in the street and people watch as a volcano erupts behind a city in the night.
The eruption turned the night sky over Goma into a fiery red.(

AP

)

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

"We hope that the measures that have been taken this evening will allow the population to reach the points that were indicated to them in this plan," government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said in comments broadcast on national television.

As the sky behind Goma glowed red, thousands fled, many on foot, toward the border with Rwanda just beyond the city.

Car horns honked and motorcycle taxis weaved as people attempted to escape in panic.

Rwanda's Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management said more than 3,500 Congolese have crossed the border. Rwandan state media said they would be lodged in schools and places of worship.

Vehicles and crowds of people congrate in the middle of the street at night.
UN Peacekeepers stood guard as civilians gathered in the street with their belongings.(

Reuter: Olivia Acland

)

Others fled to Mount Goma, the highest point in the metropolitan area.

Dorcas Mbulayi left her home about an hour after the volcano first showed signs of erupting.

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

"Dad told us that the volcano was erupting and that we were going to go to Mount Goma to escape the lava of the volcano."

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

A long line of people flee with their belongings  bundled up on their heads in the night.
Panicked residents tried to flee Goma, a city of nearly 2 million.(

AP: Justin Kabumba

)

The volcano is close to the Virunga National Park, home to some of the last mountain gorillas in the world.

Emmanuel De Merode, head of Virunga National Park, asked park employees in parts of Goma to evacuate, according to a note seen by Reuters.

A United Nations source said all UN aircraft had been evacuated to the city of Bukavu to the south and Entebbe in neighbouring Uganda.

The power was also out across much of Goma.

While Goma is home to many UN 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.

ABC/wires

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2021-05-22 23:29:25Z
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