Democratic Republic of Congo braces for another possible volcano eruption

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 5:53 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021
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10:55 a.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Congo's Mount Nyiragongo volcano erupted over the weekend. This is what it looked like.

These striking photos show the the eruption of Congo's Mount Nyiragongo volcano on the outskirts of Goma. At least 31 people have died and 30,000 were forced to flee their homes after the eruption.

Since then, the area has experienced a series of earthquakes and tremors, some that were felt as far away as the Rwandan capital of Kigali, 65 miles from the volcano in the Virunga National Park.

Lava from the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo is seen in Buhene, on the outskirts of Goma, Congo in the early hours of Sunday, May 23.
Lava from the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo is seen in Buhene, on the outskirts of Goma, Congo in the early hours of Sunday, May 23. Justin Kabumba/AP

Residents walk through the smoke from smouldering lava flewing from Mount Nyiragongo in Goma on Sunday, May 23
Residents walk through the smoke from smouldering lava flewing from Mount Nyiragongo in Goma on Sunday, May 23 Moses Sawasawa/AFP/Getty Images

A structure stands surrounded by lava on Sunday, May 23.
A structure stands surrounded by lava on Sunday, May 23. Moses Sawasawa/AFP/Getty Images

10:42 a.m. ET, May 27, 2021

10 neighborhoods in the Congolese city of Goma will be evacuated

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

10 neighborhoods in the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are to be evacuated due to risks following the deadly volcanic eruption on Saturday, including earthquakes and fear of another eruption. 

The DRC Ministry for Communication spokesperson Patrick Muyaya told a news conference in Kinshasa Thursday that the government's priority is the "preservation of human life."

The 10 neighborhoods include Majengo, Virunga and Murara as those are at the highest risk from the lava flow said Muyaya. 

As the lava from the initial eruption cools "it travels across a number of areas," he added.

DRC scientists "still do not have a clear response as to what is happening right now" he said, saying this disaster differs from others recorded in the past.

"The scientists say that we are facing an unprecedented situation," he said.

However, the latest observations from the scientists have indicated that the frequency and intensity of the earthquakes have reduced. 

The most powerful quake measured 5.2 on the Richter scale, Muyaya said.

Despite this, the DRC government made the evacuation order based on four different risks to the people and area of Goma. 

One key risk is an increase in the earthquakes observed since the eruption. Scientists also fear the possibility of a secondary volcanic eruption taking place if the lava encounters one of the many fissures that have formed in the earth. 

The threat posed by the ashes emitted into the atmosphere has also been highlighted Muyaya said. He instructed residents to be careful when purchasing fruit and vegetables as toxic volcanic dust may have settled on the goods. 

There is also a risk of gas exploding from underneath a lake in the area.  

"The return of evacuees to their homes cannot be envisaged until all threats are totally eliminated" Muyaya stressed.

Provincial authorities are continuing to work with the national police and armed forces to escort the evacuees along the evacuation routes.  

Those fleeing Goma may either take the route east towards the locality of Sake or along the reopened Rutshuru route towards the north.

Muyaya concluded by asking the population to "stay vigilant" and listen out for information from the authorities "taking into account the fact that the situation may evolve rapidly."

10:55 a.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Hundreds of children feared missing after Saturday's volcanic eruption

From CNN's Samantha Beech, Susanna Capelouto, Jennifer Hauser, Larry Madowo and Saskya Vandoorne

Mount Nyiragongo erupts in Goma, Congo, on Saturday, May 22.
Mount Nyiragongo erupts in Goma, Congo, on Saturday, May 22. Justin Kabumba/AP

Hundreds of children are feared missing or were separated from their families after Mount Nyiragongo erupted in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Sunday that the children were lost amid chaos as residents fled the nearby city of Goma. More than 150 children have been separated from their families and more than 170 children are feared to be missing, the agency said.

Around 8,000 people crossed into Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to seek refuge following the eruption of the volcano, Rwanda's Emergency Management Ministry said Sunday.

"This morning, after lava flows from Nyiragongo volcano have stopped, most of Congolese evacuated to Rubavu are returning back home. Rwanda received around 8000 people last night," the ministry said on its official Twitter account Sunday.

Thousands of residents in Goma spent the night outdoors following eruption on Saturday, according to a spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

"There has not been a massive panic movement, but people are really worried," said Tom Peyre-Costa, the council's spokesperson for west and central Africa.

Evacuees first walked toward Rwanda, Peyre-Costa told CNN. The border was closed, so they went back to Goma and headed to an area north of the city. Peyre-Costa posted to Twitter video of people leaving the city

"Everywhere in the city you see people walking with their belongings, their children and even their goats and whatever they could grab. Most of them are just sitting by the road waiting to be able to go back any time soon," Peyre-Costa said.

But hundreds could return to find damaged homes and dangerous shortages of water and electricity, UNICEF said.

The children's agency is sending a team to the area to work on limiting the spread of cholera. It is also establishing two transit centers for unaccompanied and separated children, in collaboration with the local Congolese authorities.

A leading humanitarian organization, the NRC has said the DRC was suffering through "the world's most neglected displacement crisis" as multiple conflicts forced 2 million people to flee their homes in 2020.

"A lethal combination of spiraling violence, record hunger levels and total neglect has ignited a mega-crisis that warrants a mega-response," NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland in a statement. "But instead, millions of families on the brink of the abyss seem to be forgotten by the outside world and are left shut off from any support lifeline," he added.

The NRC said that a third of the country's population – 27 million people, including more than 3 million children – do not have enough food to feed themselves.

10:55 a.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Thousands flee Congolese city of Goma as threat of another volcanic eruption looms

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke, Larry Madowo and Ivana Kottasová

At least 31 people have died and 30,000 were forced to flee their homes when the  Mount Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) first erupted over the weekend.

Since then, the area has experienced a series of earthquakes and tremors, some that were felt as far away as the Rwandan capital of Kigali, 65 miles from the volcano in the Virunga National Park.

Significant cracks in the ground – some stretching the entire width of the road, others in the walls of buildings – have begun to appear. A resident told CNN that some of his neighbors in high-rise buildings have fled their homes out of fear that they might collapse.

"The data from seismic activity indicates the presence of magma beneath the urban area of Goma and beneath the Kivu lake," the military governor of North Kivu province, General Constant Ndima, said during a news conference on Thursday.

"Because of this data we cannot exclude another eruption on the earth or under the lake, this could arrive without any warning," he added, urging people to follow the order and warning them to stay away from the lava.

"You could die from asphyxiation or suffer serious burns," he said.

Goma is the capital of the North Kivu province, sitting at the edge of Lake Kivu on the DRC border with Rwanda. According to official projections from the United Nations, World Bank and others, the city is home to approximately 670,000 people. However a number of nongovernmental organizations in the region say the population closer to 1 million.

The initial eruption destroyed at least 900 houses and flattened five schools, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

The eruption has damaged power and water supplies to the city. As of Wednesday, power had been partially restored, but water supplies were still cut, a spokesperson for the NRC told CNN.

A leading humanitarian organization, the NRC has said the DRC was suffering through "the world's most neglected displacement crisis" as multiple conflicts forced 2 million people to flee their homes in 2020.