Following the eruption of a major volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo, residents have returned to their ruined homes, with many searching for missing loved ones.
On Saturday, Mount Nyiragongo painted the sky red and unleashed a river of lava, but it stopped short of Goma, a two-million-strong city just south of the volcano.
At least 15 deaths have been verified, but once officials reach the hardest-hit districts, the figure is sure to grow.
As they fled, nine of the victims died in a road accident.
Four others were killed while attempting to flee a prison, while two were burned to death, according to government spokesman Patrick Muyaya.
According to Unicef, more than 170 children are thought to be missing, with 150 more separated from their families. Facilities to assist unaccompanied adolescents will be established.
The lava came to a halt near Buhene, on the outskirts of Goma, burying hundreds of homes and even huge structures.
The reconstruction process will most likely take months.
“Every house in Buhene was burned down,” Innocent Bahala Shamavu told the Associated Press news agency.
Even before the authorities issued an evacuation plan, residents began to flee their homes.
Crowds were observed escaping on foot with mattresses and other personal possessions late at night.
More than 3,000 individuals have crossed the border from Goma, according to Rwandan authorities.
On Sunday, several people began to return. Others fled to higher land to the city’s west.
Richard Bahati, a Goma resident, claimed he was in his house when he heard screaming and grew concerned when he noticed the sky reddening outside.
“I lived through the problem with this volcano in 2002. The volcano devastated all our homes and possessions,” he said.
A local trader, Kambere Ombeni, was among those who returned to the scene as the rubble still smouldered. “We watched the whole neighbourhood in the Nyiragongo territory go up in smoke. The fire came right down to here. Even now we can still see lava,” he said.
Mount Nyiragongo is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, but since the World Bank suspended funding due to corruption charges, there have been fears that its activity has not been effectively monitored by the Goma Volcano Observatory.
Author: Moses Echodu
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