Nyiragongo: Goma desolate, the volcano seems to be calming down

The city of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo), was unusually quiet and largely evacuated its residents on Friday morning, a day after a “preventive” evacuation ordered by authorities in fear of a new eruption of Nyiragongo volcano.

Unlike the last four days, the night marked a relative calm at the foot of the volcano: the earthquakes decreased in number and intensity, AFP noted.

At daybreak the center was almost deserted. Shops, banks, shops are closed, and only their guards remain on the stairs. There are only a few rare pedestrians, cars and motorcyclists on the streets. The same scenes in working-class neighborhoods. “It’s unheard of,” one resident wondered.

Sitting at the entrance to the plots, a few guards stayed here and there to oversee the most beautiful houses, silent and closed shutters, in the well-to-do neighborhoods on the shores of Lake Kivu.

“I’m staying in town, I know I’m in immediate danger, but I have no choice,” said the owner of a discreet beer shop that still remained open, Aline Uramahoro. “I’ll leave when the volcano starts spitting.”

Several backward families, most often on foot, travel bags on their heads and children holding hands in one file, continued to leave the city, negotiating the price of a motorcycle taxi ride.

On Thursday, in a sudden exodus, tens of thousands of people fled Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, overlooked by the imposing black slopes of Nyiragonga, after a “preventive” and “mandatory” evacuation faced with the risk of a new eruption.

A team of experts climbed to the top of the volcano, to the edges of the crater, on Thursday, “to assess the risks.”

The first eruption without any warning sign occurred last Saturday, already causing residents to flee, many of whom returned the next day. At least 32 people were killed and between 900 and 2,500 homes destroyed.

– A little miracle –

Saturday’s eruption “was a very small eruption, a real miracle,” especially that “so little lava came out” of the crater, said Dario Tedesco, an Italian volcanologist who lived in Goma for several years and was quoted as saying by UN radio Okapi.

According to authorities, the risks are now of four types: repeated earthquakes, air and water toxicity due to ash scattered in the atmosphere, a “secondary eruption” with a lion that may erupt directly from the ground in the city. And finally, the “disaster scenario” of the explosion of “a pocket of gas under Lake Kivu, due to contact with magma.”

The Goma region is an area of ​​intense volcanic activity with six volcanoes, including Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira culminating at 3,470 and 3,058 meters, respectively.

The evacuation order, announced at dawn on Thursday by the military governor of North Kivu, General Constant Ndima, surprised the population who then fled the city, in a sudden exodus, fear in their stomachs and in the biggest mess.

Theoretically, only 10 of Goma’s 18 districts – whose agglomeration is estimated at two million inhabitants – were evacuated, but in fact almost all residents boarded the three main axes – towards Sake in the west, Rwanda border in the east, northeast – as and by boat across the lake.

Throughout the day, in the dust, screaming, and chasing, tens of thousands of residents, in vehicles or on foot, fled, crowds stretching for miles on the road to Sake. Many of these displaced people slept under the stars and on the ground, along the road, in churches or schools.

Nearly 400,000 people have been potentially affected by the evacuation, according to Ocha, the UN’s humanitarian office, in the North Kivu region, which is already ravaged by gun violence.

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