DR Congo Volcano Erupts, Sending Thousands Fleeing to Rwanda

This aerial view shows debris engulfing buildings in Bushara village, Nyiragongo area, near Goma, on May 23, 2021, after a volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, that sent thousands fleeing during the night in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. - A river of boiling lava from the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo …

Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) erupted on Saturday killing at least 22 people and sending thousands of others fleeing to neighboring Rwanda.

Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano located about 7.5 miles north of the DRC city of Goma, which borders Rwanda. The volcano erupted on the night of May 22, sending thousands of Goma’s residents fleeing on foot toward nearby towns both in the DRC and in Rwanda.

“More than 5,000 people crossed the border into Rwanda from Goma yesterday, and at least 25,000 were displaced in Sake, 25 km north-west of Goma. However, most people are slowly making their way back home since the lava has stopped flowing this morning,” the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported on May 23.

“There is also concern about hundreds of people returning to Goma to find damaged homes and water and electricity shortages,” UNICEF noted, adding, “More than 150 children have been separated from their families and more than 170 children are feared to be missing.”

Goma is located along the northern shores of Lake Kivu, which serves as a natural border between stretches of DRC and Rwanda. Some Goma residents “sought refuge aboard boats on Lake Kivu” on Saturday night, the Associated Press reported.

The volcanic eruption subsided by early Sunday morning, sparing most of Goma, but the city’s death toll rose from 15 on Saturday to 22 on Monday.

Nine people died in a traffic accident while fleeing the volcanic eruption, four others died while attempting to escape from Goma’s Munzenze prison amid the chaos, and two more people were burned to death in fires caused by the eruption flow, DRC government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said in a statement on May 23.

“Five people died of asphyxiation while trying to cross the lava when it was cooling in a place just north of Goma,” the BBC reported on May 24.

“A sixth person is in hospital with breathing difficulties,” Goma civil society leader Mambo Kawaya told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday.

“The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has also mobilized its air assets to monitor the situation and is working with the authorities to ensure that the population is kept informed of all related developments,” the U.N. said in a press release on May 24.

UNICEF said on May 23 it had deployed a team to the affected DRC areas of Sake, Buhene, Kibati, and Kibumba “to provide first-line response” aid consisting of:

Installing chlorination water points in and around Sake to limit the spread of cholera. …

Strengthening its epidemiological surveillance for cholera, especially in Goma following the return of thousands of residents;

Establishing two transit centers for unaccompanied and separated children, in collaboration with the local Congolese authorities.

Mount Nyiragongo is considered one of the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes. It last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and leaving 120,000 others homeless.


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