Mount Nyiragongo in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has erupted sending panicked residents of the nearby city of Goma fleeing, although a volcanologist said the city did not appear to be in danger.
People grabbed mattresses and other belongings and fled towards the frontier with neighbouring Rwanda as a red glow filled the sky above the city. Power was out across much of the city and phone lines were busy, Reuters news agency reporters said.
The military governor of North Kivu province, of which Goma is capital, “confirmed the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano … at around 7:00pm [17:00 GMT]”.
“I ask the population to remain calm and follow the instructions of the provincial coordinator of civil protection and the instructions of the police and armed forces,” General Constant Ndima said.
Residents picked up a strong smell of sulphur on the streets of the eastern town, which sits on the mountain’s southern flank and the north shore of Lake Kivu.
Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist in the lakeside city of nearly two million, told Reuters that Goma did not appear to be at risk, and lava appeared to be flowing east – in the direction of the Rwandan border. Earlier he had said he thought lava might hit Goma, but he later said this was not the case.
“I can see high lava fountains,” Tedesco told Reuters.
INSO, which coordinates safety for non-governmental organisations, said in a note that the lava had cut off a main road that runs north from Goma.
#RDC: Le Gouvernement dit suivre de “près la situation à Goma particulièrement l’activité du volcan Nyirangongo”. Selon Patrick Muyaya, “les autorités locales évaluent la situation présentement avec l’observatoire volcanologique de Goma, une communication détaillée suivra.” 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 activity of the Nyiragongo volcano. According to Patrick Muyaya [a Congolese politician], ‘the local authorities are currently assessing the situation with the volcanological observatory in Goma, a detailed communication will follow’,” journalist Stanis Bujakera wrote on Twitter.
Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and making 120,000 people homeless after the lava flowed into Goma.
Volcano watchers have been worried that the volcanic activity observed in the last five years at Nyiragongo mirrors that in the years preceding eruptions in 1977 and 2002.
Volcanologists at the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG), which monitors Nyiragongo, have struggled to make basic checks since the World Bank cut funding amid embezzlement allegations.
In a bulletin on May 10, the observatory said there had been increased seismic activity at Nyiragongo earlier in the month.