Mount Nyiragongo in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted on Saturday, sending panicked residents of the nearby city of Goma fleeing, although a volcanologist said the city did not appear to be in danger.
People grabbed mattresses and other belongings and fled towards the frontier with neighbouring Rwanda as a red glow filled the sky above the city. Power was out across much of the city and phone lines were busy, Reuters reporters said.
Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist based in the lakeside city of around 2 million, told Reuters that Goma did not appear to be at risk, and lava appeared to be flowing east in the direction of the Rwandan border. Tedesco earlier had said he thought lava might hit Goma.
A United Nations source said a reconnaissance flight by a U.N. helicopter appeared to show lava was not flowing towards Goma or any major population centres.
Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and making 120,000 people homeless after lava flowed into Goma.
“I ask the population to remain calm and follow the instructions of the provincial coordinator of civil protection and the instructions of the police and armed forces,” North Kivu province’s military governor, Constant Ndima, told reporters.
Congo’s government spokesman, Patrick Muyaya, tweeted photos of an emergency meeting in Kinshasa, the capital, led by the prime minister and said authorities were closely monitoring the situation.
INSO, which coordinates safety for non-governmental organisations, said in a note that the lava had cut off a main road that runs north from Goma.
Volcano watchers have been worried that the volcanic activity observed in the last five years at Nyiragongo mirrors that in the years preceding eruptions in 1977 and 2002.
Volcanologists at the Goma Volcano Observatory, which monitors Nyiragongo, have struggled to make basic checks on a regular basis since the World Bank cut funding amid embezzlement allegations.
In a bulletin on May 10, the observatory said there had been increased seismic activity at Nyiragongo earlier in the month.
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