Continuing tremors have shaken the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s city of Goma, unnerving families still reeling from a volcano eruption at the weekend that destroyed nearby villages, displaced thousands and killed at least 20 people.
Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes, erupted on Saturday evening, sending a smouldering wall of lava half a mile wide downhill towards the city of two million.
The lava flow stopped a few hundred metres short of the city limits, but destroyed more than a dozen villages on the way, blocked a main route to town and cut the principal electricity supply.
People in Goma continued to be worried as violent aftershocks continued through the night and into Monday morning.
“They’re multiplying and they come at any moment,” one resident told AFP news agency, describing the aftershocks as “very worrying”.
Tens of thousands of residents had fled the city in panic – about 7,000 of them to neighbouring Rwanda – when Nyiragongo began erupting. Officials said 17 villages on the city’s fringes had suffered major damage.
Meanwhile, five people were found choked to death on toxic fumes on Monday from the eruption.
“We have just discovered five dead people,” civil society leader Mambo Kawaya told AFP, saying that they were “asphyxiated by the gas” as they tried to cross the cooling lava some 13km (eight miles) north of Goma.
A sixth person is in a “critical state with trouble breathing and has been taken to hospital”, Kawaya said.
Authorities said nine people died in accidents during the rush to evacuate, while four prisoners were killed while trying to escape in the melee. Two people were found burned to death.
Nyiragongo’s last significant eruption, in 2002, killed about 100 people, according to AFP.
By Monday, the blackish solidified lava was still hot and smoking, with dozens of people turning out to inspect it or even walk on it, despite the risk of inhaling toxic fumes.
The volcano appeared calm on the horizon, with the usual smoke rising from its crater.
A government delegation arrived from Kinshasa early on Monday, while President Felix Tshisekedi has cut short a European tour to supervise the aid operation.
Hundreds of people spent Monday night in the street after the lava destroyed their homes.
Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya warned on Sunday that the prices of food and other essentials are set to rise in Goma as the eruption has cut off several hundred metres of the road to Butembo, the region’s main trade route.
Schools are still shut with pupils told to stay at home, although businesses and petrol stations were open again.
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