Volcano erupts in eastern Congo, thousands flee Goma

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Lava from a volcanic eruption approached the airport of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s main city of Goma late on Saturday, and the government urged residents to evacuate.

As the red glow of Mount Nyiragongo tinged the night sky above the lakeside city of about 2 million, thousands of Goma residents carrying mattresses and other belongings fled the city on foot – many toward the frontier with Rwanda.

Nyiragongo’s last eruption in 2002 killed 250 people and left 120,000 homeless. It is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and is considered among the most dangerous.

Rwanda’s Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management said more than 3,500 Congolese have crossed the border. Rwandan state media said they would be lodged in schools and places of worship.

New fractures were opening in the volcano, letting lava flow south toward the city after initially flowing east toward Rwanda, said Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist based in Goma.

“Now Goma is the target,” Tedesco said. “It’s similar to 2002. I think that the lava is going towards the city centre.”

“It might stop before or go on. It’s difficult to forecast,” he said.

Emmanuel De Merode, head of Virunga National Park, asked park employees in parts of Goma to evacuate. He said lava had reached the international airport on the eastern edge of the city but that it was not likely to reach other parts of Goma.