(Update 1: adds latest information, rewrites and edits throughout, corrects name par 7)
Kinshasa, May 23 (EFE).- The flow of lava from Nyiragongo volcano slowed overnight, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s government reported Sunday morning, after residents of the main city of Goma fled for safety in the dark under a glowing red sky.
Molten lava was reported to have reached Goma’s airport and the outskirts of the city of around 2 million people, located about 20 kilometers from Nyiragongo in the Virunga National Park.
“The local authorities who followed the evolution of the eruption throughout the night report that the lava flow has lost intensity and some earthquakes. The assessment of the humanitarian situation is ongoing,” government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya tweeted just after 8 am local time (06:00 GMT) on Sunday morning.
The eruption of the volcano began close to 7 pm on Saturday, volcanologist Celestin Kasereka Mahinda of the Goma Volcano Observatory told EFE.
In the dark, residents began to flee, carrying their belongings through the streets of Goma, which sits on the shore of Lake Kivu on the Rwandan border.
Muyaya tweeted at around 10.40 pm Saturday, that “the evacuation plan for the city of Goma has been activated.”
Only a couple of hours later, Rwanda’s ministry in charge of emergency management said its border district of Rubavu had “received more than 3,500 Congolese seeking refuge from the Nyiragongo volcanic eruption.”
“The national contingency plan is in place to ensure safety and humanitarian services.”
Charles Balagizi, a researcher at Goma Volcano Observatory, tweeted that lava flow had reached “Buhene-Kihisi area” on the outskirts of the city. Other reports said it had reached the airport.
Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, with lava covering part of Goma, 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.