Volcanic Eruption: Nearest Bukavu Airport Reopens as Goma Remain Closed

In a press release on Monday evening, the Minister of Transport and Communication, Chérubin Okende Senga says the Kavumu airport of Bukavu has been cleared to resume operations.

Democratic Republic of Congo authorities have authorized the resuming of Kavumu airport operations in Bukavu, South Kivu province.

Kavumu was closed on Saturday evening as a safety measure following the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo located in the Virunga National spark, North Kivu Province, about 20 kilometers north of the town of Goma and about 46 kilometers from the Uganda-DR Congo border of Bunagana in Kisoro district. 

The eruption left 15 people confirmed dead, more than 170 children feared missing and more than 500 homes destroyed. 

In a press release released on Monday evening by the Minister of Transport and Communication, Chérubin Okende Senga, the Kavumu airport has been cleared to resume operations. 

Okende says that Bukavu airport operations are subject to the overflight exclusion zone ranging from the ground to 10,000 meters above sea level, within a radius of 60 kilometers centered on the Goma beacon, sweeping the western part, from the magnetic radial 220 to the magnetic radial 340 of the same beacon. 

Okende however says that Goma airport in Goma city will remain closed until further notice.  He says that a crisis committee made up of experts from the ministry of transport, communication and access routes, the civil aviation authority, and the Airways Authority that was set up on Saturday night will hold a crisis meeting and come up with guidelines.

Bukavu and Goma are among the closest provincial capitals to the site of the eruption. A plane flight connects the two cities in less than fifteen minutes.Meantime, schools throughout Goma city have been suspended, according to the governor of the province of North Kivu, General Ndima Kongba Constant has announced on Monday evening. Ndima says that the announcement follows the decision that was reached during a meeting about the crisis cell that he chaired on Sunday, 24 hours after the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano. 

The governor says that since the volcanic eruption on Saturday evening, many children are still separated from their parents.  

Major Ndjike Kaiko, the spokesperson for the crisis unit says that the city of Goma and its surroundings remain in the red phase since the disaster. Kaiko asks parents to be watchful over their children during this period to avoid the worst.

“We are still in the red phase, which conditions the application of the measures defined in the contingency plan," he said. "In view of earthquakes which are amplifying more, parents are asked not to send their children to school until further notice.”

Kaiko adds that the provincial crisis unit has resolved to launch a permanent assessment of the movements of the population, reports of which should be centralized and shared with all members. 

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of subscribers in Goma will not be supplied with electricity from the Virunga National Park for ten days.

According to sources from Virunga Energie, the power line connecting the Matebe plant to the city of Goma was broken in two places by the flow of volcanic lava.   Virunga Energy's medium voltage and high voltage lines were cut by lava at Kibati in Nyiragongo territory. The director of Virunga Energie, Ephrem Balobe, says that lava crossed the Goma-Rutshuru road over an area of​​more than 1,200 meters, before flowing towards Rwanda and damaged a dozen pillars and poles on the same lines.  

According to Ephrem Balobe, more than ten thousand households, two Regional Production and Distribution of Water and Electricity (REGIDESO) pumping stations and dozens of public lighting lines will be without power for ten days.