Saturday, 29 May 2021: A second volcano erupted Saturday near the eastern DR Congo city of Goma, a week after Mount Nyiragongo roared back into life, causing devastation and sparking an exodus.
“Today the Murara volcano near an uninhabited area of Virunga erupted,” government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said, referring to a wildlife reserve that is home to a quarter of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas.
Murara is a small volcano considered a crater of Nyamuragira, which along with Nyiragongo is known for strong volcanic activity.
It is located about 25 kilometres north of Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province.
Located on the shore of Lake Kivu in the shadow of Nyiragongo, Africa’s most active volcano, the city has lived in fear since it erupted last Saturday.
The strato-volcano spewed rivers of lava that claimed nearly three dozen lives and destroyed the homes of some 20,000 people before the eruption stopped.
Tens of thousands had fled Goma last Saturday night but many returned when the eruption ended the following day.
Scientists have since recorded hundreds of aftershocks.
They warn of a potentially catastrophic scenario — a “limnic eruption” that could smother the area with suffocating carbon dioxide.
Goma was quiet on Saturday with limited tremors roughly averaging once every hour, as against once every 10 minutes earlier, an AFP journalist said.
There were a handful of vehicles on the streets which were semi-deserted and only some small shops were open.
A report on an emergency meeting early Friday said 80,000 households — around 400,000 inhabitants — had emptied on Thursday following a “preventative” evacuation order.
– ‘Urgent, global support –
Most people have headed for Sake, around 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Goma where tens of thousands of people are gathered, or the Rwandan border in the northeast, while others have fled by boat across Lake Kivu.
Late Friday, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said those fleeing needed “urgent, global support”.
Aid efforts are being organised to provide drinking water, food and other supplies, and workers are helping to reunite children who became separated from their families.
Nearly 10,000 people are taking refuge in Bukavu on the southern bank of Lake Kivu, according to governor Theo Ngwabidje, many of them in host families.
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 and the deadliest eruption on record killed more than 600 people in 1977.
A report on Friday issued after experts carried out a risk assessment at the volcano’s summit, said “seismicity and ground deformation continues to indicate the presence of magma under the Goma area, with an extension under Lake Kivu”.
People should remain vigilant and listen to news bulletins, as the situation “may change quickly”, it warned.
Volcanologists say the worst-case scenario is of an eruption under the lake.
This could release hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) that are currently dissolved in the water’s depths.
The gas would rise to the surface of the lake, forming an invisible cloud that would linger at ground level and displace oxygen, asphyxiating life.
In 1986, one of these so-called limnic eruptions killed more than 1,700 people and thousands of cattle at Lake Nyos in western Cameroon.