The World Daily
Evacuations begin in Congo after volcanic eruption

Flowing lava from the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo is seen between buildings, in Goma. photo:Reuters


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | MAY 23rd 2021


Following an eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo early on Saturday, thousands of people living near and around the active Mount Nyiragongo were forced to carry their belongings and evacuate from the Eastern city of Goma.

Lava from the volcano was reportedly approaching Goma’s airport late on Saturday, after evacuations had begun. Many of the evacuees are heading towards the Rwandan frontier. Though AFP reported the lava flow had stopped, the area is still considered dangerous and unsafe to return to as of yet.

“The evacuation plan for the city of Goma has been activated,” said Patrick Muyaya, the Communications Minister via Tweet on Saturday. “The government is discussing the urgent measures to take at present.”

Nyiragongo is often considered one of the world’s most dangerous and most active volcanoes in the world, with its last eruption recorded back in 2002 when it led to the deaths of at least 250 people and left around 120,000 others without a home to return to.

The incident began when residents in Goma had reported a strange sulphuric smell in the streets of the town, and a red glow had visibly lit up the sky. Soon after, Peacekeepers from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were deployed to keep watch over the evacuations and assist in any way they could.

“We looked at the sky and saw the red colour of the volcano,” said Richard Hazika Diouf, a resident of the Majengo neighbourhood. “We have fled to seek shelter in town.”

“Now, Goma is the target,” said Goma-based volcanologist Dario Tedesco to the Reuters news agency, after having explained that the lava flow was originally flowing towards Rwanda in an Eastward direction. New fractures in the mountain caused the flow to change towards Goma. “It’s similar to 2002. I think that the lava is going towards the city centre.”

He added: “It might stop before or go on. It’s difficult to forecast.”

The country’s President Felix Tshisekedi had reportedly been forced to cut short a trip to Europe following the incident, and is set to return on Sunday to deal with the matter according to the presidency.


“The situation is deteriorating,” said the head of Virunga National Park, Emmanuel De Merode, who had urged residents living near the airport to “evacuate without delay.” At the time, he noted that the residents near the airport were of particular concern as “the other districts of the city were not in danger.”

Over 3,500 Congolese people have crossed the border according to Rwanda’s Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management, not all of which are from Goma city. Many families had evacuated from villages close to Goma that were threatened by the lava flow.

Volcanologists at the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG) had expressed concern that the observed activities of the volcano recorded over the past five years had been very similar to the volcanic activity that preceded the eruptions in 2002 and 1977.

The eruption in 1977 is still remembered as the volcano’s deadliest, having claimed at least 600 lives. In recent time, however, volcanologists were having difficulty with the regular checks of Mount Nyiragongo due to funding cuts by the World Bank. Although, some unusual seismic activity was reported on May 10, by the observatory. 


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2021