By Rogers Wanambwa
KIU, Main Campus – Last weekend, Democratic Republic of Congo's Mt Nyiragongo emitted lava that devastated homes on the outskirts of Goma. However, witnesses said Sunday that the city of two million had been largely spared after the volcano erupted at night and sent thousands fleeing in panic.
According to authorities, at least five people had died in a road crash while trying to leave Goma, but advised it was too early to give a death toll in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. More than 500 homes had been razed, according to Constant Ndima, military governor for the affected region.
Citizens said there was little warning before the dark sky turned a fiery red, leading to fears that the eruption could cause a similar kind of havoc as the last time in 2002 when hundreds died.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission had said late Saturday that it didn't appear the lava was flowing toward Goma based on reconnaissance flights, but residents still fled worrying for the worst. Some boarded boats onto Lake Kivu while others attempted to reach Mount Goma, the highest elevation point.
Reports indicate that at least 3,000 fled across the nearby border into Rwanda.
On Sunday, residents ventured out to assess the damage after a night of panic. Smoke rose from smoldering heaps of lava in the Buhene area near the city.
"We have seen the loss of almost an entire neighborhood," said Innocent Bahala Shamavu.
"All the houses in Buhene neighborhood were burned and that's why we are asking all the provincial authorities and authorities at the national level as well as all the partners, all the people of good faith in the world, to come to the aid of this population."
Besides, spectators said lava had inundated one highway connecting Goma with the city of Beni. However, the airport seemed to be spared the same fate as 2002 when lava flowed onto the runways.
As it is, Goma is a provincial hub for many humanitarian agencies in the region, as well as the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Even still, much of the surrounding eastern DRC is under threat from a number of armed groups fighting for control of the region's mineral resources.