Nairobi, May 22 (EFE).- Residents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s main city of Goma fled for safety Saturday night under a glowing red sky as nearby Nyiragongo volcano erupted and the government issued evacuation orders.
People carried their belongings through the streets of Goma, a city of around 2 million people that sits on the shore of Lake Kivu on the Rwandan border, about 20 kilometers from Nyiragongo in the Virunga National Park.
“The evacuation plan for the city of Goma has been activated. The government is discussing urgent measures to take now,” government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya tweeted, later adding that the government “activated its intervention mechanism.”
The eruption of the volcano began close to 7 pm local time (16.00 GMT), volcanologist Celestin Kasereka Mahinda of the Goma Volcano Observatory told EFE.
Charles Balagizia, a researcher at Goma Volcano Observatory, tweeted that a “new vent opened around Mujoga, lava flowing towards Goma city,” later adding that it had reached “Buhene-Kihisi area” on the outskirts of the city.
Other reports said the lava flow had reached the airport.
Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, forcing some 300,000 people to flee, killing around 250 people and leaving 120,000 homeless.
On May 11, the Observatory warned in a report on Nyamulagira and Nyiragongo volcanoes that both “are very active, particularly Nyiragongo, where some sporadic hybrid earthquakes are observed.”
“This activity does not yet affect inhabited areas but they deserve particular follow-up attention,” the Observatory recommended.
The volcano is one of the most active in the world and popular with tourists who visit the lava lake in its crater.
Virunga, located in the province of North Kivu – one of the most affected by violence in the DRC, is one of the few tourist destinations in this central African nation, and has been a World Heritage Site since 1979.