Volcano Eruption Hit Mount Nyiragongo, Displaced Over 3,000 People in DR Congo

A din of people and honking horns could be heard in videos of the red-glowing eruption shared on social media, and Rwandan officials said that more than 3,500 Congolese people had sought refuge across the border in nearby Rwanda.
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Displaced Guma Resident's in Rwanda. Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGE

A highly active volcano erupted in eastern Congo on Saturday night, turning the sky above a fearsome red and causing evacuation plans to be activated in a major city devastated in 2002 and 1977 by Mount Nyiragongo’s most recent lava flows.

However, officials said the speed of the lava flows had slowed on sunday morning, and local journalists reported they had stopped just short of the outskirts of Goma, a picturesque lakeside city that is eastern Congo’s hub for trade and transport. Videos showed property damage but there were no reports of injuries of deaths.

Electricity was out across large areas in the aftermath of the eruption.

"There is a smell of sulphur. In the distance you can see giant flames coming out of the mountain," resident Carine Mbala told AFP news agency.

Rwandan authorities said about 3,000 people had officially crossed from Goma. The country's state media said they would be accommodated in schools and places of worship.

One Goma resident, Richard Bahati, said he was in his house when he heard screaming. "I got out and saw the sky was red. I am so worried, so worried. I lived through the problem with this volcano in 2002. The volcano devastated all our homes and possessions."

People are seen walking near smouldering ashes early morning in Goma in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 23, 2021 following the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo. (Moses Sawasawa/AFP/Get

Swift-moving lava and its accompanying carbon-dioxide fumes left hundreds dead by some counts and more than 100,000 people homeless. Well over 1 million people live near the active crater, In January 2002.

A government spokesman, Patrick Muyaya, said late on Saturday that Goma’s evacuation plan had been activated, as the Associated Press reported that thousands were already fleeing, often on foot. A din of people and honking horns could be heard in videos of the red-glowing eruption shared on social media, and Rwandan officials said that more than 3,500 Congolese people had sought refuge across the border in nearby Rwanda.


“Panic spread as we were in contact with the residents of the north of the city who from their roofs could see the path of the lava as it made its way to the airport,” said Patient Iraguha, a resident of Rwanda who works in Goma.

“Information was circulating in all directions,” he told The Washington Post on Sunday morning from Rwanda. “During this time no official statement dictated any instructions, and nothing came out on the radio like on national television to give the right information on the direction of the lava and the escape route to take.”

The pandemic has created unusual uncertainty at the Congo-Rwanda border crossing at Goma, which is one of the world’s busiest, seeing tens of thousands cross on foot each day in a kind of international commute. While daily crossings are still allowed, confusion over temperature checks and other monitoring measures put in place added to the chaos, Iraguha said.