More than 20,000 people are left homeless and 40 are still missing after the volcanic eruption in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which killed dozens and continues to cause strong earthquakes in the nearby city of Goma, the United Nations has reported.
Saturday’s eruption sent rivers of lava descending the hillside from Mount Nyiragongo, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee, but it stopped 300 meters (984 feet) from Goma Airport, the main hub for relief operations. east of the DRC.
The lake city, of 1.5 million people, is about 12 km (8 miles) from the volcano.
The ash cloud caused by the eruption has closed Goma and Bukavu airports and is likely to cause respiratory illnesses, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Wednesday.
People who fled their homes have lost valuable property, including motorcycles consumed by the lava flow or looted, OCHA said.
The death toll from the eruption rose to 32 on Tuesday.
More than 200 small and medium-sized earthquakes have caused cracks in rubber buildings and streets.
The cracks, almost 60 cm wide in some places, have caused panic among residents who do not know if the danger has passed.
“Yesterday it was very small, here it is right in front of my house, but today it has been enlarged,” Susanne Bigakura, 65, told Reuters news agency. “It’s scary. We’re afraid it could collapse and our children could fall into it.”
“I’m scared because those who saw the 2002 eruption told us that where a crack passes will be catastrophic. Now, when we see a fissure after a recent eruption, I’m worried we’re in danger,” Valentin said. Kikuni, a welder.
Some of the cracks opened up on the roads and hindered traffic.
Fearing that their houses would collapse, many people slept outside on mattresses, the luckiest under the mosquito nets.
Residents felt the tremors at regular intervals throughout the night, with two strong shocks from Africa’s most active volcano causing widespread alarm and causing terrified people to leave their homes.
The RSM seismic control agency in neighboring Rwanda, whose border is near Goma, said it had detected a 5.1-magnitude earthquake at 5:46 a.m. (3:46 GMT). ), followed by a 4.1-magnitude earthquake at 6:12 p.m.
Authorities closed the market, shops and various works as a precaution.
On Tuesday, at least four buildings partially collapsed in Goma, including a three-story structure in which eight people were seriously injured, emergency workers reported.
Local volcanologists have recorded hundreds of aftershocks since Nyiragongo came back to life, including 119 on Monday alone, but say there is hope that the much-feared volcano will calm down.
Government officials who visited Goma on Monday announced several relief measures, including payment for the victims’ funerals, the supply of roofing supplies, food and medicine, as well as psychological counseling and emergency repairs to the Goma. damaged infrastructure.
But residents are still nervous. Hundreds take refuge in a Rwandan refugee camp and many continue to flee there, according to Rwanda’s emergency ministry.
Boats transport hundreds of people from Goma to Bukavu, about 70 km (43.5 miles) along the shores of Lake Kivu.
A 1.7 km (1 mile) lava river blocking the main road north of Goma is still too hot to remove, said OCHA, which impedes trade delivery and helps one of the most unsafe places. food industry in Africa.
Still, some road restoration work has begun, according to images from Twitter’s governing channel.
Nyiragongo, a so-called stratum volcano nearly 3,500 meters high, is straddling the tectonic divide of the East African Rift.
Its last major eruption, in 2002, killed about 100 people.