The city of Goma, at the foot of the Nyiragongo volcano, which erupted on Saturday (22) in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was still shaken on Monday morning (24) by numerous and strong earthquakes, causing fear among local populations.
The lava river stopped this Sunday (23) a few hundred meters from the suburb of Goma, saving the city, whose inhabitants were beginning to return home, despite the fear of a new eruption.
According to a balance sheet on Sunday, 15 people died, “nine of them in accidents produced during the flight of the population, and four in the central prison of Munzenze, from where [os detentos] wanted to leave, “said the government spokesman.
Local UN representative Diego Zorrilla said that four villages were “directly affected and destroyed” by the lava, and that the government will receive support from humanitarian aid.
The lava stopped flowing a few hundred meters from the airport in Goma, from where the planes were removed during the night. All Sunday flights were canceled.
In Goma, about ten small earthquakes have been felt since dawn.
“There are still small earthquakes on the lava river path. We have to remain very attentive,” said Adalbert Muhindo, a head of the city’s Volcanology Observatory. “If these earthquakes trigger an opening, this lava could advance to Goma again,” he warned.
Tens of thousands of people fled to a border post with Rwanda, south of Goma, and southwest of the city, to the Masisi region.
In Rwanda, the reception of thousands of people took place in a peaceful and organized manner by the authorities.
“Currently, citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo who have taken refuge in Rwanda after the Nyiragongo eruption are returning to their country,” the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) said on Sunday.
Tourists are safe and sound
Tourists who were near the crater at the time of the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano are “safe and sound,” said the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), the governing body of the Virunga National Park, where the volcano is located. “Mountain gorillas are not threatened,” added the agency.
Virunga Park, Africa’s oldest nature reserve, opened in 1925, is a sanctuary for the few remaining mountain gorillas, also present in Rwanda and neighboring Uganda.
The major previous eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano occurred on January 17, 2002. The incident caused the death of more than 100 people, covering most of eastern Goma with lava, including half the runway at the airport.
Goma houses a large contingent of blue helmets and many members of the Monusco team, the UN mission in the country. It is also the foundation of many NGOs and international organizations.
In Rome, Pope Francis prayed “for the population of the city of Goma, forced to flee by the eruption of the great volcano Nyiragongo”, during his Sunday Angelus.
The Goma region is an area of intense volcanic activity, with six volcanoes, including Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, very close to each other and at 3,470 and 3,058 meters respectively.