DR Congo authorities ordered the evacuation of part of the city of Goma on Thursday over the risk of further eruptions from volcano Nyiragongo, causing an immediate exodus of tens of thousands of people.
“Right now we can’t rule out an eruption on land or under the lake (Kivu), which could happen very soon and without warning,” the local military governor General Constant Ndima told media.
There was a “risk of destabilisation” of dangerous gases dissolved under Lake Kivu, at the foot of the Nyiragongo volcano, said local authorities in the eastern DR Congo region.
In his evacuation order, Ndima said additional risks were linked to an “interaction between lava and water” in the lake.
“Current data on seismicity and the deformation of the ground indicate the presence of magma under the urban area of Goma, with an extension under Lake Kivu,”said Ndima in a broadcasted public address.
“Right now we can’t rule out an eruption on land or under the lake, which could happen very soon and without warning,” he added. “The situation can change rapidly, and is being constantly monitored.”
Evacuation is necessary and should be done calmly and without rushing, he continued, saying that authorities had arranged transport towards Sake, around 20 kilometres west of Goma, in each of the ten districts of the city affected.
“People should take the bare minimum with them, to make sure everyone has a chance to get on,” he added.
The announcement was followed by the immediate departure of tens of thousands of people towards the southwest, in the direction of the Rwandan border.
Aftershocks from Mount Nyiragongo, Africa’s most active volcano, have been rattling Goma for days after Sunday’s eruption.
On Wednesday night, two powerful aftershocks caused terrified people to run out of their homes.
The UN said it was “relocating” non-essential staff, both national and international, out of Goma city. And many of the other international organisations and NGOs that have offices there were doing likewise.
The so-called strato-volcano nearly 3,500 metres (11,500 feet) high, Nyiragongo straddles the East African Rift tectonic divide.
Its last major eruption, in 2002, claimed around 100 lives.