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At least 15 dead and hundreds of homes destroyed after volcanic eruption in DR Congo

At least 15 people are dead and more than 500 homes destroyed by a volcanic eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mount Nyiragongo erupted on Saturday night, sending about 5,000 people fleeing from the city of Goma across the border into Rwanda.

Another 25,000 people headed northwest to Sake, in the province of North Kivu.

Smoke and flames are seen at the Nyiragongo volcanic eruption from the Tchegera Island on Lake Kivu, near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo May 22, 2021. Picture taken May 22, 2021. REUTERS/Alex Miles

Image:
The eruption seen from Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo

More than 170 children are missing and UN officials are organising transit centres to help unaccompanied children.

Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said that, of the 15 people killed, nine had been involved in a traffic accident as they fled, four had been trying to escape a prison, and two suffered fatal burns.

A building burns after the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, which occurred late on May 22, 2021, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Pic: ENOCH DAVID via REUTERS

Image:
Many houses caught fire due to the lava. Pic: Enoch David

The lava hit 17 villages, destroying three health centres, a primary school, and a water pipeline.

The main road north out of the city was also ruined, as was the main electricity supply.

Aline Bichikwebo and her baby escaped when lava reached her village, but her mother and father were killed.

Ms Bichikwebo said she had tried to move her father to safety before their home was ignited by the lava, but she had not been strong enough.

“I am asking for help because everything we had is gone,” she said, adding: “We don’t even have a pot. We are now orphans and we have nothing.”

Alumba Sutoye said: “People are still panicking and are hungry.

“They don’t even know where they are going to spend the night.”

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Homes swallowed up in eruption

In the Buhene area near the city of Goma, Innocent Bahala Shamavu said: “All the houses in Buhene neighbourhood were burned.

“That’s why we are asking all the provincial authorities and authorities at the national level as well as all the partners, all the people of good faith in the world, to come to the aid of this population.”

Flowing lava from the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, which occurred late on May 22, 2021, is seen in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, in this still image from undated video obtained via social media. ENOCH DAVID via REUTERS

Image:
The lava hit 17 villages, destroying three health centres, a primary school, and a water pipeline. Pic: Enoch David

The air was still thick with smoke on Monday due to so many houses having caught fire.

Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, causing widespread destruction in Goma.

Hundreds died and more than 100,000 people were left homeless in that eruption, which also saw lava flow onto runways at the city’s airport.

Goma is the base for a number of humanitarian agencies as well as a UN peacekeeping mission, with much of eastern Congo destabilised by armed groups fighting over natural re-s.

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