Congo residents evacuated as Mount Nyiragongo threatens second eruption

Published On June 1, 2021 | By Tina Nalova Ikome-Likambi | News

Thousands of inhabitants of 10 “high-risk” neighborhoods of Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are being evacuated because of a threat of a second eruption of Mount Nyiragongo.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in a May 28 situation report stated the number of people evacuated is unknown but the population in the affected areas is estimated to be around 400,000.

Scientific data from Goma’s Volcano Observatory (GVO) revealed the danger of an eruption on land and under Lake Kivu, about 1,500 kilometres east of the capital Kinshasa.

“Because there is seismicity in a fragile zone, it will be imprudent not to ask the inhabitants of these zones to evacuate. The danger is not yet cleared,” said Dr. Adalert Muhindo, general director of Goma’s Volcano Observatory.

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The International Medical Corps (IMC) in a report, published on May 27, stated at least 32 people died during the eruption. Photo credit: Courtesy Don Juan Masudi

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a press release today, stated the city of Goma experienced more than one thousand earthquakes and tremors following the eruption on Saturday, May 22.

The International Medical Corps (IMC) in a report, published on May 27, stated at least 32 people died during the eruption.

Seven died by lava, two from asphyxia due to volcanic gases, three from smoke, nine from road accidents, and four prisoners died when inmates of the Goma Central prison panicked and tried to escape, it stated.

The IMC stated about 450,000 people have so far fled Goma.

UNICEF stated in a May 27 report that 939 non-accompanied children had been identified, 686 had been reunited with their families, 142 had been placed in transitional foster families, and 78 children in transit accommodation centres.

However, 170 families are still looking for lost children, it stated.

Médecins Sans Frontiers stated in a May 31 release more than 500,000 people had been deprived of access to drinking water because Goma’s main reservoir and the pipes were damaged during the eruption.

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Don Juan Masudi said inhabitants of Goma are resilient and have handled similar happenings. Photo credit: Courtesy of Don Juan Masudi

Don Juan Masudi, a Goma resident and wedding photographer, said Mount Nyiragongo’s eruption was frightful.

“The lava started from the north part of the town and it was coming to the south,” Masudi said. “People had already gone. But there were other people trying to get what they could get so that they can save something.”

He said the lava’s path was enabled by closely built houses.

“The lava was coming towards houses. The path I saw is that the lava was consuming houses and then because houses are very close to each other, the eruption continued,” Masudi said.

“I think the moment where it stopped was because it reached a path where there were no houses closer to each other,” he said. “That’s when the lava stopped.”

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Don Juan Masudi seen here braving the heat and lava, remained behind in Goma to document the catastrophic event. Photo credit: Courtesy of Don Juan Masudi

Masudi, who photographed taking pictures very close to the lava, said he wanted to document the historic event.

“I think I went there just to look for myself,” he said.

“There were other people posting pictures but I wanted to take pictures myself that will be shown as history,” Masudi said.

He said he is still in Goma and has not evacuated the city yet. Indeed, Masudi said he wanted to remain in the city as long as he could because he wanted to see what will happen.

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a press release today, stated the city of Goma experienced more than a thousand earthquakes and tremors following the eruption on Saturday, May 22. Photo credit: Courtesy of Don Juan Masudi

“There was an earthquake. Last week it was very frequent but now the earthquakes are not. From yesterday to today. There was just one,” he said.

“I can say that they have become usual to us,” Masudi said. “It’s not something that scares us.”

Masudi said inhabitants of Goma are resilient and have handled similar happenings.

“We know this is not the first eruption. From history, they say that this is the third and people keep recovering from that,” he said. “We hope that after this, we will come to a time where this city will become more and more beautiful.”

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