February 25, 2021


AVSI’s staff is assessing the damage caused by the lava spewing from Mount Nyiragongo on Saturday, May 22, that brought chaos and devastation to the city of Goma 

Democratic republic of the Congo

On Monday, May 24, AVSI staff in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) began assessing the damage caused by the lava spewing from Mount Nyiragongo. On Saturday, May 22, the volcano erupted at night, bringing chaos and devastation to Goma, a city of two million people. Considered one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Nyiragongo had last erupted in 2002, killing several hundred people and leaving another approximately 100,000 homeless.

On Saturday night, Nyiragongo erupted around 7:00 PM, generating a flow of lava that traveled at considerable speed, reaching the first inhabited centers and north of Goma before midnight.

Thousands of people fled in the middle of the night to the town of Sake while other families have gone as far as Minova, a town located 50 kilometers from Goma. It is estimated that 7,000 people have already crossed the border into Rwanda to find safety.

"UNICEF has reported that in the chaotic escape from the most populated areas, more than 200 children have been separated from their families, and it is feared that as many are missing."

The situation is still full of uncertainty: authorities are still evaluating the extent of the damage and number of victims. As of Wednesday, May 26, 32 people had died in incidents related to the eruptionThe lava flow stopped on Sunday, but there have been repeated earthquakes since the eruption and the authorities are evaluating if the volcano might erupt again soon. In the meantime, some commercial activities have reopened, and the humanitarian community is getting organized to respond to needs. AVSI’s staff is currently evaluating the situation in the red zone, specifically in the Ngangi and Ndosho neighborhoods.

“We are constantly monitoring the situation. After the eruption, we could feel earthquakes. At this stage, they have not caused any damage, but the alert remains high,” says Nicoló. “There are thousands of people displaced; some are already returning to their houses for fear of looting. Many houses are destroyed, without electricity and often even without water.”

The humanitarian coordination led by OCHA met on Sunday, May 23, and international organizations are preparing for rapid action in priority areas of child protection, nutrition, and hygiene.

“We have met with neighborhood dwellers and local authorities,” says Nicoló. “Families are tired, already tried by chronic emergencies, from Ebola to protests. Now they are also scared; some have lost the little they had. We are thinking about distributing stocks and basic needs.”

AVSI has been present in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) since 1972 with over 200 people and has its main office in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the eastern DRC.


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