The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has launched an evacuation plan for the city of Goma in the east of the country after a large volcano erupted.
Lava fountains erupted from Mount Nyiragongo into the night sky, forming a thick orange cloud over Goma, which has a population of two million.
Panicked people fled for safety.
The volcano, located about 10 km from the city, last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and leaving 120,000 homeless.
The deadly lake of fire that heats to 1000 ° C in the DRC
Lake Kivu, a lake of explosive power
Even before the government’s announcement, crowds of residents were seen with mattresses and other belongings fleeing, often on foot, towards the border with Rwanda in the east. Others fled to higher areas west of the city.
Carine Mbala, a resident, told AFP news agency: “There is a smell of sulfur. In the distance, you can see giant flames coming out of the mountain.”
People have been urged to remain calm, but some have complained about the lack of information from authorities amid conflicting accounts circulating on social media.
“We are already in total psychosis,” resident Zacharie Paluku told the Associated Press (AP) news agency. “Everyone is scared; people are running away. We really don’t know what to do.”
Congolese residents of Goma flee from Mount Nyiragongo volcano as it erupts over Goma
Goma residents are seen leaving the city following a sudden activity of the Nyiragongo volcano
Peacekeepers from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist based in Goma, told Reuters news agency that a new fracture had opened on the volcano, and the lava was reaching the city’s airport.
“Now Goma is the target,” Tedesco said. “I think the lava is heading towards the center of town.”
The highway that connects Goma to the city of Beni had already been engulfed by lava, according to AP. Electricity was cut off in large parts of the city.
A government spokesperson said on Twitter that the government was discussing “urgent measures to be taken” after the prime minister called an emergency meeting in the capital, Kinshasa.
A video posted to Twitter by The New Times in Rwanda showed the eruption from the town of Rubavu, near the border with Rwanda.
Credit : BBC (photos: Getty, Reuters photos)