Volcanic Eruption in Congo

Volcanic Eruption in Congo

Mount Nyiragongo volcano erupted near the city of Goma in Eastern DR Congo on 22 May. 

A lake of molten lava spilled down its side and flowed towards the city. An immediate needs assessment by the Anglican Diocese of Goma development team reported that the lava flow brought destruction in its wake, burning buildings, roads, fields and even livestock. The BBC reports that tens of thousands have again been evacuated from the city over fears of a further volcanic eruption. Later reports would put the estimate of homeless at 120,000.

The authorities state that another eruption could happen at any time with little warning. There were over 200 aftershocks in the days afterward, destroying several buildings. The volcano last erupted in 2002 when lava flooded the city of Goma.

At the time of the eruption, families fled out of Goma and surrounding villages in fear, some crossing over the border into Rwanda. Sadly, some children were separated from their families and work is ongoing to reunite families. As the lava flow missed the heart of Goma, casualties were relatively low, just 23 deaths and 41 missing – but this is still a tragedy for each family affected. However, as the lava flow reached to within a mile of the airport runway, there was a lot of structural damage.

The Diocese of Goma assessment reports 4,545 homes were burnt, eleven schools, six churches, ten electricity poles, two health centres, one antenna, a slaughterhouse, a wine factory, as well as fields of crops and livestock. The team worked with chiefs of the damaged villages and the territory administrator to assess the situation and the needs. They have identified immediate needs for food (beans, rice, salt, oil, maize flour and sugar) as well as hygiene needs (toilets, jerry cans, buckets, soap) and household goods such as pots, pans and plates. Homes have been destroyed by the lava flow, with just a few pieces of twisted corrugated roof sheets visible in the lava flow where homes used to be.

The EC spoke with one local resident who said the authorities were most concerned about the possibility of a massive explosion.  The fear is that such an event could happen if giant underground deposits of methane gas escaped into the atmosphere and met the flow of molten lava.