Around 8,000 people from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fled their homes into Rwanda following the eruption of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano in the eastern part of the DRC, officials said Sunday.
“This morning, after lava flows from Nyiragongo volcano have stopped, most of Congolese evacuated to Rubavu are returning back home. Rwanda received around 8000 people last night,” Rwanda’s Emergency Management Ministry said on its official Twitter account.
Scores of children are feared missing as families spent the night outdoors following the eruption on Saturday. Eleven people died while 600 homes were destroyed after the eruption, officials said. “There has not been a massive panic movement, but people are really worried,” a spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Tom Peyre-Costa, was quoted by CNN.
“Everywhere in the city you see people walking with their belongings, their children and even their goats and whatever they could grab. Most of them are just sitting by the road waiting to be able to go back any time soon,” Peyre-Costa added.
BBC reports that many residents headed across the nearby Rwandan border though some went to higher ground to the west of the city. Communications Minister Patrick Muyay on Sunday tweeted that the “intensity of the lava flow had slowed”, adding that officials are assessing the situation.
The last time the volcano erupted was in 2002. That disaster put parts of Goma in ruins as 90,000 people lost their homes and scores died. Currently one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Nyiragongo is located in the Western branch of the Rift Valley near Lake Kivu and the Congolese-Rwandan border.
“It is 11,385 feet (3,470 metres) high, with a main crater 1.3 miles (2 km) wide and 820 feet (250 metres) deep containing a liquid lava pool. Some older craters on the mountain are noted for their plant life,” writes Britannica.
Besides the 2002 disaster that displaced many and created a refugee crisis, Nyiragongo killed some 2,000 people in 1977. Time writes that so many factors are taken into consideration when assessing which volcanoes are the most dangerous in the world. These include the types of magma that emerge during eruptions and each volcano’s eruption history, as well as, the population density surrounding active volcanoes.
At the moment, some parts of Goma are built around the solidified lava but people are now aware of the risks, thanks to scientists who monitor the situation regularly. “We call him General Nyiragongo,” a local tour guide was quoted by National Geographic. “Because when he comes, everyone runs.”
At night, it boils and glows, but since 2017, there have been no warning signs, attracting scores of tourists to the site. Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park, has been offering treks to Nyiragongo’s lava lake, the largest in the world.