Volcano erupts in eastern Congo, lava reaching airport in Goma

Volcano erupts in eastern Congo, lava reaching airport in Goma

Volcano erupts in eastern Congo, lava reaching airport in Goma

Mount Nyiragongo has erupted for the first time in almost two decades, sending lava sliding down the hillside towards the eastern city of Goma and forcing thousands of people to flee.

Witnesses, though, said lava had engulfed one highway that connects Goma with the city of Beni in North Kivu province and had reached Goma's airport.

Several thousand people poured into the streets carrying what they could take with them when they saw the volcanic eruption.

The prime minister convened an emergency meeting in Kinshasa, the capital.

The first departures from the city came even before the official confirmation that Mount Nyiragongo had erupted at around 7pm (local) Saturday, spewing red fumes into the night sky.

"There is a smell of sulphur". An eruption has been confirmed, but lava is now flowing towards Rwanda.

"The lava doesn't seem to be headed toward the city of Goma".

"The eruption of Nyiragongo is similar to the eruption in 2002", he added, asking all local residents near the airport to "evacuate without delay".

"Investigations are underway and people must follow the guidance of civil protection", he said. There is a blackout in most parts of the city and thousands of residents left their homes with news of "giant flames" coming from the mountain.

Volcanologists in the area said earlier that there would be no danger to the city, but that many people have already fled to the border with Rwanda.

"But there has not been any quake", she added.

"I am taking the children and getting into the auto".

Celestin Kasereka, head of scientific research at the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG), told reporters he did not think the lava was flowing fast enough to reach Goma.

"The government is closely monitoring the situation in Goma", Congo's government spokesman, Patrick Muyaya, said on Twitter.

Mothers should gather their children together and take necessary items such as key documents including identity cards and diplomas and food for the journey, he added.

Earlier this year, researchers working at the Goma Volcano Observatory reported signals that an eruption might be on the way.

For the moment, there is no sign of a flow of lava from the city, the correspondent said.

The volcano last erupted in 2002, with some 250 people losing their lives and lava destroying approximately one-fifth of city, including airport runways. Hundreds of thousands were evacuated.

The deadliest explosion occurred in 1977, when over 600 people were killed.

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