Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate the city of Goma after officials warned lava from nearby Mount Nyiragongo is underneath the streets and could erupt or spew poisonous gas at any moment.
Residents of ten neighbourhoods were were placed under mandatory evacuation orders on Thursday – told to pack only essentials so they could be loaded on to boats and buses, and taken to the town of Sake, 13 miles away.
It comes after Nyiragongo – one of the world’s most-active volcanoes – erupted at the weekend, partially submerging the city of 670,000 in lava that killed at least 31 with 40 still missing, and left 20,000 homeless.
Entire neighbourhoods were buried in rock which has now begun to cool and solidify, but on Thursday experts warned that ‘deformations’ in the ground indicate there is more liquid magma underneath the city and under the surface of Lake Kirvu, on whose shores the city sits.
That magma could come boiling to the surface at any moment, military governor General Constant Ndima said, and if it mixes with the lake water could also create poisonous gas.
Tens of thousands of people are being forced to evacuate from Goma city in DR Congo after officials warned lava from a nearby erupting volcano is underneath the streets and could boil to the surface at any moment
Ten neighbourhoods of Goma – population 670,000 – are now under mandatory evacuation orders, with people told to bring only essentials on to boats which will take them to another town 13 miles away
People also packed on to Goma’s rudimentary road network Thursday morning as they try to flee using any means available – including cars and bicycles (pictured above)
Traffic clogs one of the main roads through Goma as people attempt to flee the city after officials warned that lava is underneath the streets and could erupt without warning
Lava has also leaked underneath the bed of Lake Kirvu, on whose shores the city of Goma sits (pictured in the background), officials said – and could create poisonous gas if it mixes with the water
Around 20,000 people in Goma had already been left homeless by the eruption – which began on Saturday – and had been relying on state aid to survive (pictured, people wait to sign up for aid packages)
Mount Nyiragongo is one of the world’s most-active volcanoes and an eruption at the weekend killed at least 31 with 40 missing and left some 20,000 people homeless (pictured, homeless people wait for aid packages)
People left homeless by the eruption in Goma wait to register to receive some aid distributed by a local politician and businessman, after thousands of homes were destroyed
Aid workers take people’s names and details so they can be provided with aid following the volcanic eruption in Goma
Boats are packed with people who have been told to evacuate their homes at Goma’s main port, so they can be sailed to the nearby town of Sake. Many others have fled across the border into Rwanda
‘Current data on seismicity and the deformation of the ground indicate the presence of magma under the urban area of Goma, with an extension under Lake Kivu,’ he said in a public broadcast Thursday morning.
General Ndmia also spoke of ‘destabilisation of the volume of gas dissolved in Lake Kivu and the emission of potentially dangerous gases at the surface’.
‘Right now we can’t rule out an eruption on land or under the lake, which could happen very soon and without warning. The situation can change rapidly, and is being constantly monitored,’ he added.
Photos from Goma this morning showed crowds of people packing on to boats to take them away from Goma, as traffic blocked the city’s rudimentary road network with people fleeing in cars and on bicycles.
‘People should take the bare minimum with them, to make sure everyone has a chance to get on,’ General Ndmia added.
Mount Nyiragongo began erupting on Saturday and continued spewing lava throughout the weekend, burying parts of Goma in molten rock as people from nearby villages rushed to take selfies
The eruption at Mount Nyiragongo is seen from the Rwandan side of the border, where thousands of people from DR Congo have fled after their homes were destroyed
An aerial view shows lava flowing from the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo near Goma on Saturday
While some headed towards Sake, many others crossed the nearby border into Rwanda, where it is thought thousands more have already fled since the weekend eruption.
The United Nations says 32 people have died and at least 3,000 homes were destroyed after the volcano erupted on Saturday.
The UN humanitarian affairs office OCHA said 24 of the victims were burned alive by lava, adding that 40 adults have been reported missing.
By the time the eruption ended on Sunday the volcano had spewed out two rivers of molten rock, one of which came to halt on the edge of Goma after obliterating villages in its wake.
Goma, a lakeshore city of 1.5 million people, lies around a dozen kilometres (eight miles) from the volcano.
Local volcanologists have recorded hundreds of aftershocks since Nyiragongo roared back into life, including 119 on Monday alone.
A so-called strato-volcano 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.
Residents carry goods on their backs while they cross a lava covered field in Buhene, north of Goma on May 25
A man salvages for his belongings in the aftermath of the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano on May 24
Residents displaced by theMount Nyiragongo volcanic eruption wait to register to receive some aid distributed by a local politician and businessman in Goma on May 26
As residents of Goma struggle to get by following the Mount Nyiragongo eruption, the city has also been shaken by a series of powerful after-shocks that have cracked roads
Women sit down to eat next to a church in Sake after fleeing the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in Goma on May 24
Goma residents carry few belongings after an evacuation order has been given on May 27
Goma residents carry few belongings as they hurry to leave the city after an evacuation order has been given on May 27
Congolese residents of Goma arrive in Rwanda after fleeing from Mount Nyiragongo volcano as it erupted over Goma
A woman who lost her home looks on after arriving in Sake in the aftermath of the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in Goma on May 24
People gather on a stream of cold lava rock following the overnight eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in Goma, Sunday, May 23
Smoldering ashes are seen early morning in Goma in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 23