Over 650 DR Congo nationals affected by earthquakes after volcano eruption seek refuge in Rwanda

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People who fled to Rwanda during the overnight eruption of Mount Nyiragongo return to Goma, Congo in the early hours of Sunday, May 23, 2021. Congo's Mount Nyiragongo erupted for the first time in nearly two decades Saturday, turning the night sky a fiery red and sending lava onto a major highway as panicked residents tried to flee Goma, a city of nearly 2 million. (AP Photo/Justin Kabumba)
People who fled to Rwanda during the overnight eruption of Mount Nyiragongo return to Goma, Congo in the early hours of Sunday, May 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Justin Kabumba)

A total of 651 nationals of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who were affected by earthquakes following the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo volcano fled to Rwanda’s border town Rubavu, a Rwandan official said Wednesday.

They are seeking shelter and humanitarian assistance after their properties were destroyed by the series of earthquakes that occurred in the aftermath of the eruption, said the mayor of Rubavu district Gilbert Habyarimana on local radio, adding that they are being accommodated in makeshift tents in Busasamana sector in Rubavu, where the Rwandan authorities are providing them with protection and humanitarian aid.

If the seismic activities continue in Goma city in the DRC, and other areas close to Mount Nyiragongo, more DRC nationals will be forced to flee to Rubavu, said Habyarimana.

At least 119 earthquakes were recorded on Monday in Goma, after the nearby Nyiragongo volcano erupted on Saturday, according to the Goma Volcano Observatory.

Rubavu, which borders Goma, also experienced successive earthquakes following the eruption, including a 5.3-magnitude earthquake on Tuesday morning.

Business in Gisenyi town in Rubavu district has come to a standstill due to repeated earthquakes. Some banks, schools, markets, hospitals and shops have temporarily closed, according to Habyarimana, adding that people in high-risk zones in Rubavu district have been evacuated to safe places within the district.

The district together with relevant authorities will hold a meeting to discuss the way forward, most especially in terms of providing the required humanitarian aid to affected people, said the official.

A fissure has developed across Rubavu town due to the earthquakes hitting the area, he cautioned the public.

Seismologist Tite Niyitegeka from Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board said such earthquakes are volcano-tectonic earthquakes and are produced by vibrations generated by the movement of magma within the volcano

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