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Hundreds of people flee to Rwanda after volcano erupts in DRC

23 May 2021, The East African, AFP
Hundreds of people flee to Rwanda after volcano erupts in DRC

Rwanda opens borders to hundreds fleeing DRC volcanic eruption

Rwanda has opened its borders to accommodate hundreds of people fleeing the city of Goma in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo following the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano.

Taken aback by this latest eruption of the volcano, the residents of Goma in North Kivu province began seeking refuge in Rwanda.

Vincent Karega, the Rwandan ambassador to DRC who is stationed in Kinshasa, confirmed that his country had welcomed those fleeing the volcanic eruption.

"The Rwandan borders are open and the reception of our neighbours is taking place peacefully. There was no blockage whatsoever but rather the organisation of coordinated entries," he said.

Accommodated in schools

Late Saturday evening, authorities in Rubavu district in Rwanda announced that the arrivals would be accommodated in schools and places of worship which had been prepared for this purpose.

No deaths have been reported following the volcanic eruption.

Congolese authorities in Kinshasa said they had decided to activate "an evacuation plan" of the city of Goma.

Fearing the airport in Goma could be affected by the lava flow, the Minister for Transport Chérubin Okende ordered that planes parked there be evacuated to Kisangani in the northeast of the DRC.

The lava from the erupting mountain reached the DRC city's airport early Sunday, with an official from Virunga National Park — where the volcano is located — telling his staff: "the situation is deteriorating".

Tshisekedi returns

President Félix Tshisekedi, who has been in Europe since the beginning of the week, is expected back home Sunday.

Mr Tshisekedi is expected to supervise the coordination of aid to the populations of the areas threatened by the volcanic eruption, the presidency announced.

Earlier, as the volcano began lighting up, a smell of sulphur pervaded Goma city on the shores of Lake Kivu, according to an AFP correspondent.

Goma, the regional capital of North Kivu, has nearly 600,000 inhabitants spread across 12 districts.

The authorities' evacuation plan anticipates that two-thirds of them will go to Rwanda.

The previous major eruption of Nyiragongo dates back to January 17, 2002, when it killed more than 100 people. It covered almost the entire eastern part of Goma with lava, including half of the airport runway.

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