Power was cut off in the town of Goma, as some residents left their homes and headed to the nearby Rwandan border.
Mount Nyiragongo in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, erupted sending panicked residents of the nearby town of Goma to flee, even as a volcanologist said the city without fear.
People grabbed mattresses and other belongings and fled towards the border with neighboring Rwanda as a red flame filled the sky above the town. Power was lost throughout the town and telephone lines were busy, according to Reuters agency reporters.
The military governor of North Kivu province, where the capital is Goma, “confirmed the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano… around 7:00 p.m. [17:00 GMT]”.
“I urge the population to remain calm and follow the instructions of the provincial coordinator on civil protection and the instructions of the police and armed forces,” said General Constant Ndima.
Residents caught a foul smell of sulfur on the streets of the eastern town, which is on the south side of the mountain and on the north shore of Lake Kivu.
Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist in the lakeside town of nearly two million, told Reuters that Goma seemed safe, and the lava appeared to be flowing east-in the direction of the border Rwandan. He had previously said he thought the lava would hit Goma, but later he said it was not the cause.
“I saw tall lava springs,” Tedesco told Reuters.
INSO, which manages safety for non-governmental organizations, said in a letter that the lava had cut off a main road from Goma in the north.
#RDC: The Government says it is closely monitoring the situation in Goma, particularly the Nyirangongo volcanic activity. According to Patrick Muyaya, “local authorities are now studying the situation at the Goma volcanic observatory, a detailed communication will follow.” pic.twitter.com/uCkuDAhL8h
– Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala (@StanysBujakera) May 22, 2021
Translation: “The government says it is closely monitoring the situation in Goma, particularly the Nyiragongo volcanic activity. Agreed by Patrick Muyaya [a Congolese politician], ‘local authorities are now investigating the condition of the Goma volcanic observatory, follow up with a detailed communication’, ”journalist Stanis Bujakera wrote on Twitter.
Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and leaving 120,000 people homeless after a lava flow in Goma.
Volcano watchers are concerned that the volcanic activity observed over the past five years in Nyiragongo mirrors that of the years before the 1977 and 2002 eruptions.
Volcanologists at the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG), which tracks Nyiragongo, have struggled to make basic assessments from the World Bank’s suspension of funding amid allegations of extortion.
In a bulletin on May 10, the observatory said there had been increased seismic activity in Nyiragongo last month.