People pause to snap selfies in front of their burning homes as thousands flee rivers of boiling lava as a volcano in DR Congo erupts.
Residents of Goma posed in front of the wreckage as the lava came to a halt on the outskirts of the city on Sunday 23 May, sparing it from disaster after the night-time eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano.
Thousands of other residents fled as the molten rock swallowed up houses, heading towards Goma airport on the shores of Lake Kivu.
But the military governor of North Kivu province said ‘the city was spared’ by a matter of a few hundred yards after ‘the lava halted near Buhene on the outskirts of Goma’.
People pause to snap selfies in front of their burning homes as thousands flee rivers of boiling lava as a the Nyiragongo volcano in DR Congo erupts
Residents of Goma posed in front of the wreckage as the lava came to a halt on the outskirts of the city on Sunday 23 May, sparing it from disaster after the nighttime eruption of the volcano
But the military governor of North Kivu province said ‘the city was spared’ by a matter of a few hundred yards after ‘the lava halted near Buhene on the outskirts of Goma’
Five people were killed in accidents during the evacuations, said General Constant Ndima, appointed governor early this month when the province was placed under a ‘state of siege’ to combat violence by armed groups.
Ndima reported some thefts from shops and an attempted escape of inmates from Goma prison but said ‘the situation is under control.’
Many families slept on pavements surrounded by their belongings after they frantically grabbed mattresses and fled towards the frontier.
Ndima said around 7,000 people fled overnight to neighbouring Rwanda before returning.
‘All the Goma residents returned home without incident this morning after spending the night in emergency shelters which Rwanda set up, mainly schools,’ said Rwanda’s minister for emergency management, Marie Solange Kayisire.
She added: ‘Only about 100 of them are still in Rwanda but they are people who have cars who spent the night in hotels.’
Five people were killed in accidents during the evacuations, said General Constant Ndima, as many others stood by the molten rocks for pictures
Groups of people pose on the rocks, as General Constant Ndima said around 7,000 people fled overnight to neighbouring Rwanda before returning
One resident poses with debris on the smoking ground the molten rock swallowed up houses, heading towards Goma airport on the shores of Lake Kivu
Lava from the eruption of Mount Myiragongo is seen in Buhene, on the outskirts of Goma, Congo in the early hours of Sunday
Civilians watch the smoke and flames of the volcanic eruption near Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo
The morning brought around a dozen earth tremors, prompting Pope Francis to offer a special prayer for Goma in his Sunday Vatican address.
‘This morning we saw the whole district had gone up in smoke, the flames came right down here from Nyiragongo,’ said one resident.
Despite a relative return to calm Goma residents remained wary.
‘There is a smell of sulphur. In the distance you can see giant flames coming out of the mountain,’ added another resident.
Tourists who were near the crater when the volcano erupted are safe, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) tweeted.
They added the rare mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park, where Mount Nyiragongo is located, were likewise not threatened by the eruption.
A few cars were on seen on the streets Sunday, but no police or military presence was visible.
People congregated after the volcano had stopped but there were a dozen earth tremors in the morning, prompting Pope Francis to mention the city in his prayers
The eruption has turned the sky red over the city of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday
An aerial view shows lava flowing from the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo is pictured on Saturday night
On Saturday, Communications Minister Patrick Muyaya had said that the government had activated an evacuation plan and was ‘discussing the urgent measures to take at present.’
The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, said he would ‘interrupt his stay in Europe to return home this Sunday to supervise the coordination of aid’.
General Ndima said Monusco, the UN mission in the country, NGOs and international organisations in the DRC would hold an emergency meeting on the crisis later Sunday with local and regional authorities.
The first departures from Goma city came even before the official confirmation that Mount Nyiragongo had erupted at around 7:00 pm Saturday.
Power was already cut in large parts of the city when hundreds of residents began leaving their homes.
Some headed out of the southern end of Goma towards the nearby border post with Rwanda, while others headed west towards Sake, in the neighbouring Congolese region of Masisi.
Electricity was cut off in a large part of the city as thousands of people – carrying mattresses, food and parcels – streamed towards the Rwandan border.
Electricity was cut off in a large part of the city as thousands of people – carrying mattresses, food and parcels – streamed towards the Rwandan border
Several planes, belonging to Monusco and private companies, took off on Saturday evening, according to an airport source, with a local adding they had also seen the unusual nighttime activity.
In a May 10 report, the Goma Vulcanology Observatory warned seismic activity around the volcano had increased and warranted careful monitoring of a region with six volcanos in all.
The Observatory’s Adalbert Muhindo said ongoing tremors meant people had to remain vigilant and warned it would be dangerous for locals who had fled to think of returning to the vicinity for now.
The last time Nyiragongo erupted was January 17, 2002, killing more than a hundred people and covering almost all of the eastern part of Goma with lava, including half of the airport’s landing strip.
During that eruption, the victims were mostly sick or elderly abandoned to their fate in the northern districts of the city with some looting also taking place.