U.N.: 20,000 Homeless, 40 Missing Following DR Congo Volcano Eruption

Residents check the damages caused by lava from the overnight eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, seen in background, in Buhene, on the outskirts of Goma, Congo in the early hours of Sunday, May 23, 2021. Congo's Mount Nyiragongo erupted for the first time in nearly two decades Saturday, turning the night …
AP Photo/Justin Kabumba

Over 20,000 people are homeless and 40 people remain missing following the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) city of Goma on Saturday, the United Nations (U.N.) reported Wednesday.

“The ash cloud caused by the eruption has closed down airports in Goma and [the nearby city of] Bukavu, and is likely to cause respiratory diseases,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement issued May 26.

“People who fled their homes have lost valuable possessions including motorcycles that were either consumed by the lava flow or looted,” OCHA said.

“A 1.7 km (1 mile) river of lava that blocked the main road north from Goma is still too hot to be removed,” OCHA revealed, adding that the situation has prevented the U.N. from delivering aid to the Goma area, already considered one of the most food-insecure regions in Africa prior to the natural disaster.

Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano located roughly 7.5 miles north of Goma, a city that borders Rwanda. The volcano erupted on the evening of May 22, sending more than 5,000 Goma residents fleeing to nearby towns in Rwanda and 25,000 to the DRC town of Sake, located 15 miles northwest of Goma, according to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Mount Nyiragongo’s eruption on Saturday destroyed hundreds of homes in Goma but spared most of the city, including its airport. While Mount Nyiragongo’s lava flow diminished significantly by Sunday, the volcano has continued to cause earthquakes in and around Goma over the past few days, according to the U.N., which oversaw further evacuations of the city on Thursday.

“The UN is closely monitoring humanitarian developments in Goma after last night’s decision by state authorities to evacuate 10 districts, as a precaution, following the 22 May eruption of the Nyiragongo Volcano,” OCHA said in a press release on May 27.

“Evacuations are underway, with reports of tens of thousands of people leaving Goma. The road to Sake, a town some 25 kilometers from Goma, is reportedly completely congested with people traveling by car and foot. There are also reports of people moving towards Rutshuru in North Kivu [province], and Bukavu in neighboring South Kivu [province],” the statement read. Goma is the capital of North Kivu province, located in eastern DRC.

“This is happening against a backdrop of already high needs in North Kivu. Forty-four percent of all 5 million internally displaced people in the DRC are in North Kivu, and 33 percent of the population is also severely food insecure,” OCHA noted.


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