UN says 20,000 homeless, 40 missing in DR Congo volcano aftermath

Baku, May 28, AZERTAC

More than 20,000 people are homeless and 40 are still missing in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo that killed dozens and continues to cause strong earthquakes in the nearby city of Goma, the United Nations has said, according to Al Jazeera.

Saturday’s eruption sent rivers of lava streaming down the hillside from Mount Nyiragongo, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee, but stopped 300 meters (984 feet) short of Goma airport, the main hub for aid operations in the east of DRC.

The ash cloud caused by the eruption has closed down airports in Goma and Bukavu, and is likely to cause respiratory diseases, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

People who fled their homes have lost valuable possessions including motorcycles that were either consumed by the lava flow or looted, OCHA said.

The death toll from the eruption rose to 32 on Tuesday.

More than 200 small and medium earthquakes have since caused cracks in buildings and streets in Goma.

The seismic monitoring agency RSM in neighboring Rwanda, whose border runs close to Goma, said it had detected a 5.1 magnitude earthquake at 5:46am (3:46 GMT), followed by a 4.1 magnitude quake at 6:12am.

Government officials who visited Goma on Monday announced several relief measures including paying for victims’ funerals, supplying roofing material, food and medicines, as well as psychological counselling and emergency repairs of damaged infrastructure.

But residents remain jittery. Hundreds are sheltering in a Rwandan refugee camp, and many are continuing to flee there, according to the Rwandan emergency situations ministry.

Boats are ferrying hundreds of people from Goma to Bukavu, about 70km (43.5 miles) down the shore of Lake Kivu.

A so-called strato-volcano nearly 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) high, Nyiragongo straddles the East African Rift tectonic divide.

Its last major eruption, in 2002, killed nearly 100 people.

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