UN says about 400,000 DRC’s Goma evacuees need support

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The United Nations (UN) said on Friday that about 400,000 people would need support or protection after fleeing the volcano eruption and a wave of aftershocks in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

At least 32 people died when Mount Nyiragongo sent a wall of lava spreading towards the city of Goma on Saturday, destroying 3,000 homes along the way and cutting a major road used to bring aid to the strife-torn region.

The lava stopped just short of the city limits, but thousands of more people fled early on Thursday when the government warned that the volcano, one of the world’s most active, could erupt again.

Many escaped to Sake, a town 13 miles (20 km) northwest of Goma that is prone to cholera outbreaks, the United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) said.

“With an increased risk of a cholera outbreak, we are appealing for urgent international assistance to avert what could be a catastrophe for children,” UNICEF’s representative in Congo, Edouard Beigbeder, said.

Authorities issued an evacuation order around 1 a.m. local time on Thursday after radar images showed molten rock flowing under Goma.

The movement of magma caused cracks in the surface and hundreds of earthquakes, which could allow it to burst through to the surface in a fresh eruption, the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG) said.

The frequency and intensity of the ground tremors had lessened in the last 24 hours, suggesting the risk of a fresh eruption was subsiding, Celestin Kasareka Mahinda of the OVG said on Friday.

Suzan O/REU