Rwanda opens borders to aid hundreds fleeing DRC volcanic eruption

Following the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano, Rwanda has opened its borders to hundreds of people fleeing the city of Goma in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Residents of Goma, in North Kivu province, were taken aback by the volcano’s latest eruption and began seeking refuge in Rwanda. 

Rwanda’s ambassador to the DRC, Vincent Karega, who is based in Kinshasa, confirmed that his country had welcomed those fleeing the volcanic eruption.

“The Rwandan borders are open and the reception of our neighbours is taking place peacefully. There was no blockage whatsoever but rather the organisation of coordinated entries,” he said.

Authorities in Rwanda’s Rubavu district announced late Saturday evening that the arrivals would be accommodated in schools and places of worship that had been prepared for this purpose. 

However, there have been no reports of deaths as a result of the volcanic eruption.

Congolese authorities in Kinshasa revealed they had decided to activate “an evacuation plan” of the city of Goma.

Fearing that the lava flow would affect Goma’s airport, Transport Minister Chérubin Okende ordered that planes parked there be evacuated to Kisangani in the DRC’s northeast. 

Early Sunday, lava from the erupting mountain reached the DRC city’s airport, prompting a Virunga National Park official to inform his staff that “the situation is deteriorating.” 

However, President Félix Tshisekedi, who has been in Europe since early this week, is expected to return home on Sunday. 

According to the presidency, Mr Tshisekedi will be in charge of coordinating aid to the people living in the areas threatened by the volcanic eruption.

According to the EastAfrican, North Kivu’s regional capital, Goma, is home to nearly 600,000 people spread across 12 districts. Two-thirds of them are expected to flee to Rwanda, according to the authorities’ evacuation plan. 

The most recent major eruption of Nyiragongo occurred on January 17, 2002, and killed over 100 people. It engulfed almost all of Goma’s eastern suburbs in lava, including half of the airport runway.

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