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Thousands Flee Goma as Volcano Erupts in Eastern Congo

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They are walking on foot, carrying mattresses and other belongings. Some sought refuge aboard boats on Lake Kivu, while others fled to Mount Goma, the highest point in the metropolitan area. Others fled to the city centre from villages and neighbourhoods threatened by lava on the northern outskirts.
Nyiragongo eruption 2002
Thousands of residents are fleeing Goma city in the Democratic Republic of Congo as lava from a volcanic eruption flows towards the airport and the city centre. This is in response to an appeal by the government for residents to evacuate after Mount Nyiragongo erupted last evening.

They are walking on foot, carrying mattresses and other belongings as fountains of high lava burst from Mount Nyiragongo into the sky forming a thick orange cloud over Goma. Some sought refuge aboard boats on Lake Kivu, while others fled to Mount Goma, the highest point in the metropolitan area. Others fled to the city centre from villages and neighbourhoods threatened by lava on the northern outskirts.

Mt Nyiragongo is one of the world's most active volcanoes and is considered among the most dangerous. The last eruption in 2002 killed 250 people and left 120,000 homeless. Records show that more than one million people live near the active crater, with Goma just a dozen miles south.

International media outlets are reporting that new fractures were opening in the volcano, letting lava flow south toward the city after initially flowing east toward Rwanda. According to Associated Press,  lava had coursed onto a highway linking Goma with the city of Beni.

A United Nations source said all U.N. aircraft had been evacuated to the city of Bukavu to the south and Entebbe in neighbouring Uganda. However, Celestin Kasereka, head of scientific research at the Goma Volcano Observatory told reporters he did not think the lava was flowing fast enough to reach Goma.

"We hope that the measures that have been taken this evening will allow the population to reach the points that were indicated to them in this plan," government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said in comments broadcast on national television. Muyaya urged people to o avoid engaging with everything that is being said in social media in the face of an extremely serious situation.

Our reporter in Kisoro reports that Lava flowing from the erupting Mount Nyiragongo in North Kivu province, have cut off Goma-Bunagana road at Kirimanyoka, a few meters after Kibati Patrol Post heading to Rwanda. Locals say that the hot lava blocked transport at Kirimanyoka, few meters to the starting point for all expeditions within the Virunga National Park and Nyiragongo Mountain.

The Military Governor of North Kivu province, Lieutenant General Constant Ndima has called for calm and asked the public to follow the instructions of the provincial coordinator of civil protection. He directed service station owners to empty the tanks to prevent explosions, and hospitals to move patients to hospitals in the city centre and Kyeshero.

Rwanda's Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management said that more than 3,500 Congolese have crossed the border, according to a report by Reuters. Rwandan state media said they would be lodged in schools and places of worship.

President Felix Tshisekedi will cut short a trip to Europe to return to Congo on Sunday, the presidency said on Twitter as panic spread across the city. But the British Embassy in the Congo said in a statement, that the current assessments indicate eruption doesn’t threaten the city itself.

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