Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo erupted for the first time in nearly two decades, turning the night sky a fiery red and spewing lava onto a major highway as panicked residents fled Goma, a city of nearly 2 million people.
According to witnesses, lava engulfed one of the highways connecting Goma to the city of Beni in North Kivu province.
According to volcanologist Dario Tedesco, who is based in Goma, as the lava flowed south toward the city, it reached the airport on the outskirts of town.
According to Mr Tedesco, new fractures were opening in the volcano, allowing lava to flow south toward the city after initially flowing east toward Rwanda.
“Goma is now the target,” he explained.
“It’s comparable to 2002. I believe the lava is heading towards the city centre. It may come to a halt or continue. It is difficult to predict.”
Authorities issued no evacuation orders. Olivia Acland (Reuters)
The last eruption of Nyiragongo in 2002 killed 250 people and displaced 120,000. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, as well as one of the most dangerous.
MONUSCO, the United Nations peacekeeping operation, tweeted spectacular pictures of the city on fire, claiming it was performing reconnaissance flights over Goma, where it has a huge base.”The lava does not appear to be heading into Goma. We’re still on high alert “It was stated.
But, according to Mr Tedesco, a second fissure in Mount Nyiragongo has opened, allowing the lava to pour toward Goma.
The Goma Volcano Observatory initially reported that the nearby Nyamulagira volcano had erupted, adding to the confusion.
The two volcanoes are roughly 13 kilometres apart.
Goma, located on the Congo-Rwanda border, serves as a regional hub for humanitarian organisations.
People flee the 2 million-person city, causing chaos.
The night sky over Goma turned a fiery red as a result of the eruption. (The Associated Press)
Premier Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde called an emergency meeting in Kinshasa, where the government triggered a Goma evacuation plan.
In comments carried on national television, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said, “We hope that the steps adopted this evening will allow the population to attain the milestones that were indicated to them in this plan.”
Thousands of people fled Goma as the sky turned crimson behind them, many on foot, toward the Rwandan border just beyond the city.
As panicked people rushed to flee, car horns honked and motorcycle taxis swerved.
More than 3,500 Congolese have crossed the border, according to Rwanda’s Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management. They will be housed at schools and houses of worship, according to Rwandan official media.
Civilians gathered on the street with their goods while UN peacekeepers stood guard. (Olivia Acland is a Reuters reporter.)
Others sought refuge on Mount Goma, the city’s highest point.
Dorcas Mbulayi evacuated her home approximately an hour after the volcano began to erupt.
Ms Mbulayi, who was still a youngster when the volcano erupted, said, “We were eating when a friend of dad’s contacted him on the phone and ordered him to go outside and watch.”
“Dad informed us that the volcano was erupting and that we would be fleeing to Mount Goma to avoid the lava.”
She also faulted officials for “not alerting us about the potential volcanic eruption in a timely manner.”
Panicked locals attempted to evacuate Goma, which has a population of roughly 2 million people. Justin Kabumba of the Associated Press contributed to this report.
The volcano is close to the Virunga National Park, which is home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas.
According to a note seen by Reuters, the head of Virunga National Park, Emmanuel De Merode, has instructed park personnel in portions of Goma to leave.
According to a UN source, all UN aircraft have been evacuated to the southern city of Bukavu and Entebbe in neighbouring Uganda.
Much of Goma was also without power.
While many UN forces and relief workers are stationed in Goma, much of eastern Congo is threatened by a slew of armed factions competing for control of the region’s mineral wealth.