Earlier on Saturday, residents of GOMA, an eastern city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, reported a strong smell of sulphur on the streets, and a red glow colour filling up the sky. In the late hours of the evening of Saturday 22nd May 2021, the world’s most active volcano which resides in the east of Congo in a region called ‘GOMA’ - erupted for the first time in 19 years. The military governor of North Kivu province, of which Goma is the capital, confirmed the eruption of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano at around 7:00pm.
The eruption released lava initially which flowed east towards Rwanda, said Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist based in Goma. But later in the evening, new fractures opened in the volcano allowing lava to flow south towards Goma, he said. When people saw that the flow of lava had changed, some signalled 'Goma is the target now'.
Lava from Mount Nyiragongo approached Goma’s airport late on Saturday, and an evacuation was ordered for the city. Thousands of residents carrying mattresses and other personal belongings fled GOMA on foot – with many headed towards the shared border with Rwanda. The lava flow has now stopped after reaching the suburbs of the region.
A bit of background
Nyiragongo is the world’s most active volcano and among the most dangerous. The eruption last night was unpredicted and unprecedented, and has been recorded as one of the worst in its history. The volcano has been erupting in the following pattern:
Nyiragongo erupted in 1977, then in 2002 killing over 500 people and leaving 120,000 homeless, and now again in 2021. You can see there is some 20 year pattern, this SHOULD have been predicted and prepared for. Truly a costly oversight from the Congolese government.
Power was out across much of the city on Saturday night and phone lines were busy, according to Reuters, family members were struggling to contact their loved ones. A resident of GOMA named John Kilosho told news reporters "we are panicked because we have just seen the entire city covered by a light that is not electricity or lamps... we don’t know what to do. We don’t even know how to behave. There is no information.”
Many Congolese people you would have seen are enraged by the lack of preparation and warning that was given to the residents of GOMA. By the statement given by John Kilosho, it seems as though the residents were given no direction by any authorities. Late last night, communications Minister Patrick Muyaya announced that the evacuation plan for the city of Goma has been activated, he tweeted late yesterday evening; "the government is discussing the urgent measures to take at present". The plan was activated after an emergency meeting in Kinshasa, he added. President Felix Tshisekedi cut his trip to Europe short, to return to Congo on Sunday would be returning home from Europe on Sunday to help coordinate relief efforts.
There has not been any immediate word on any casualties reported, but witnesses said that lava had engulfed one highway that connects Goma with the city of Beni in North Kivu province, so people were bound to be affected by this. We hope the number of casualties is low, but can only go by what is reported in the hours to come for confirmation.
As of Monday 24th May 2021 - there have been 15 fatalities confirmed. Over 170 children are still missing after being separated from parents during the escape.
Rwanda’s Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management said more than 8000 Congolese people have crossed the border. Rwandan state media said they would be lodged in schools and places of worship.
WAYS YOU CAN HELP:
Use your voice - help us to spread the word of what is happening and also calling out the incompetence of the Congolese government for not having a stable plan in place for an evacuation of Goma should an eruption happen again. Share the images and hashtag on your social platforms and tell friends and family about what’s going on. It’s always being reported on BBC news and other platforms, so you can tune into that too.
2. Donate to the following charities (BASED IN CONGO)
* Please do your own research in terms of which charity you would be more keen on donating to *
#SOSGOMA Volcano Relief - Go Fund Me via @YellowSunday
This fund has been set up by Yellow Sunday, a very reputable organisation based in the UK and they go between the UK and DRC. The fund is going to be used to provide food, sanitary products and clean clothing to the victims of the Nyiragongo tragedy. You can access the fund here: https://t.co/b4hyWlbj6b
Global Living - this is a platform that hosts over 10 fundraisers for causes in the DRC, many of them are located in GOMA and centred around caring for children impacted from COVID-19, helping to complete school projects in Goma, helping to create Maternal Health Funds for women in Goma, and many more.
You can access their fundraisers here: https://www.globalgiving.org/search/?size=25&nextPage=1&sortField=sortorder&selectedCountries=00dereco&loadAllResults=true
Important to look into which fundraisers you wish to assist, because we do not know what the state of some of these projects after the eruption.
Save the Congo - Save the Congo! is a grassroot Congolese-led campaign group working to help end the wars, conflicts and humanitarian crisis engulfing Congo. At times of volcanic eruptions, they are always on the frontline for helping affected Congolese people along the Rwanda frontier due to the Nyiragongo volcano.
Here is a link to their organisation: http://savethecongo.org.uk/
HOLD-DRC is Humanitarian Organization for Lasting Development, Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a Congolese Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), formed in 2012 by a group of professionals who were convinced that more could be done to raise the low Human Development Index ranking of DR Congo.
here is a link to the organisation https://www.actforcongo.org/hold-drc
HANDS AT WORK (DRC) Initially, Hands at Work was caring for 40 of the most vulnerable children in Buhimba using the temporary structures of a local church. But this exposed the Care Point, in the context of desperate hunger, to theft of food which was insufficiently stored. In response, a vacant church building is rented by Hands at Work. The Hands at Work local office team in Likasi, partnered with local organisation ‘Blessed Aid’, who provide monitoring and assessment on the ground, set to work constructing a storage room, cooking shelter and a shelter under which children could gather and eat. Toilet facilities were also constructed on-site to ensure proper hygiene and avoid the region’s rampant cholera outbreaks.
Here is a link to the organisation: https://www.handsatwork.org/buhimba-community