Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Volcano evacuation order sparks mass exodus in DRC

Tens of thousands of people fled the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma on Thursday towards neighbouring Rwanda after authorities warned of possible new eruptions from the Nyiragongo volcano, including underneath the nearby Lake Kivu.

The city has been on edge since Africa’s most active volcano erupted on Saturday, leaving at least 32 people dead.

“Right now we can’t rule out an eruption on land or under the lake, which could happen very soon and without warning,” said General Constant Ndima, the military governor of North Kivu province.

He said an evacuation of part of the city had been ordered, and urged residents to leave calmly.

Tens of thousands of residents fled Goma last weekend after Nyiragongo erupted on Saturday night — many across the nearby border to Rwanda — before returning.

But strong aftershocks have continued to rattle the city, leading some buildings to collapse and leaving residents fearful.

The volcano spewed out two rivers of molten rock during the eruption, one of which came to halt on the edge of Goma after obliterating villages in its wake.

Local volcanologists have recorded hundreds of aftershocks since Nyiragongo, which sits just 12km from Goma, roared back into life.

Ndima said that the latest data including on “deformation of the ground indicates the presence of magma under the urban area of Goma, with an extension under Lake Kivu”.

“The situation can change rapidly, and is being constantly monitored,” he said in a broadcast address.

The governor said there were extra risks associated with the interaction between magma and the lake, including “the emission of potentially dangerous gases at the surface”.

Ndima said authorities had arranged transport towards Sake, around 20km west of Goma, in each of the ten districts of the city affected.

“People should take the bare minimum with them, to make sure everyone has a chance to get on,” he added.

– Thousands homeless –

The announcement was followed by the immediate departure of tens of thousands of people towards the southwest, in the direction of the Rwandan border, an AFP correspondent said.

Vehicles of all kinds, including cars full of families, vans and trucks waited to cross into Rwanda.

The streets in the southern part of Goma were congested, with people walking or running, carrying mattresses, sports bags or a few meagre possessions in plastic bags, and holding on to frightened children.

Despite the traffic jams and the sudden influx, the crossing to Rwanda was proceeding in relative calm, while lines of vehicles were also heading toward Sake.

The ten districts of Goma under official evacuation orders are at possible “lava exit points”, Ndima said.

“It is very important to stay away from the lava flows, because of the danger of death from suffocation or burns.

“The police will patrol to secure property and people,” he said, concluding his remarks with: “May God look after us.”

The United Nations said 32 people have died and 5 000 are feared to be homeless.

The UN humanitarian affairs office OCHA said 24 of the victims were burned alive by lava, adding that 40 adults have been reported missing.

A so-called strato-volcano nearly 3 500 metres high, Nyiragongo straddles the East African Rift tectonic divide.

Its last major eruption, in 2002, claimed around 100 lives.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Agence France Presse
Agence France Presse works from worldwide. AFP Photo's official Twitter account. Tweeting news and features from Agence France-Presse's global photo network Agence France Presse has over 120540 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Environmental groups welcome China’s pledge on coal

Will China’s end of coal finance be the final nail in the coffin for MMESZ?

More top stories

Shadow states infest Africa’s democracies

Two recent reports show evidence that democracy in Africa is being threatened by private power networks

The West owes Africa $100bn (at least) for climate recovery

In fewer than three days, a US citizen emits as much carbon as a person from Chad or Niger does in one year. Such is the asymmetry in culpability for climate change.

Environmental groups welcome China’s pledge on coal

Will China’s end of coal finance be the final nail in the coffin for MMESZ?
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×