Volcanic Eruption Surprises Villages in Congo

Mount Nyiragongo
An aerial view of the towering volcanic peak of Mount Nyiragongo. (MONUSCO/Neil Wetmore, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Jim Brace-Thompson

Watching the nightly news on television, I was startled by reports of a volcanic eruption near the major city of Goma (population 2 million) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was startling because there were no previous reports warning of such a dangerous event.

That, in part, is because the government of Congo cut funding last October for an observatory that might have given advance warning. Per one report, the observatory no longer even had internet access. The funding cut was blamed on the coronavirus pandemic.

With no warning whatsoever, initial reports told of more than 32 people killed outright, 500 homes destroyed, 5,000 people fleeing the area in haphazard manner, and approximately 170 children missing. Many of the missing children apparently fled the advancing lava flow while their parents were working away from home. The death toll is expected to rise. Deaths have been caused by lava engulfing homes, toxic gases, and car crashes as residents attempted to flee to nearby Rwanda.

The volcano causing such carnage is Mount Nyiragongo. It erupted with a bang the evening of May 22, 2021. Issuing quickly forth from a fissure, a deadly lava flow plowed, burned, and flattened all in its path. This same volcano killed hundreds of people during a similar eruption in 2002, which is one reason an observatory was put in place to monitor volcanic activity.

In addition to the immediate dangers posed by the lava flow, earthquakes are rattling nerves even further. Meanwhile, as of this reporting, the volcano is said to remain dangerously active, with lava continuing to spill down its sides although stopping just short of Goma and its nearby airport.

Author: Jim Brace-Thompson

JimBraceThompson Jim began and oversees the AFMS Badge Program for kids and has been inducted into the National Rockhound & Lapidary Hall of Fame within their Education Category.
Contact him at jbraceth@roadrunner.com.


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