The United Nations announced on Wednesday 20,000 people are homeless and 40 still unaccounted for in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption in eastern Congo that claimed dozens of lives and continues to cause strong earthquakes in the nearby city of Goma.
Saturday’s eruption sent rivers of lava streaming down the hillside from Mount Nyiragongo, devastating hundreds of houses and forcing thousands to flee, but stopped 300 metres short of Goma airport, the main hub for aid operations in the east of Congo.
In a statement, the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the ash cloud caused by the volcanic eruption has shuttered airports in Bukavu and Goma, and is likely to cause respiratory diseases.
OCHA added that people who fled their homes have lost valuable possessions including motorcycles that were either looted or consumed by the lava flow.
Over 200 small and medium earthquakes have since caused cracks in streets and buildings in Goma, just 15 km (9 miles) from Nyiragongo.
“Yesterday it was very small, here it is just opposite my house, but today it has widened,” said Susanne Bigakura, 65. “It’s scary. We fear it can collapse and our children can fall in.”
“It scares me because those who saw the 2002 eruption told us that where a crack passes, it will be catastrophic. Now, when we see a fissure after a recent eruption, I’m worried that we are in danger,” said Valentin Kikuni, a welder.