Mount Nyiragongo in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted on Saturday, sending panicked residents of the nearby city of Goma fleeing, although a volcanologist said the city did not appear to be in danger.
People grabbed mattresses and other belongings and fled towards the frontier with neighbouring Rwanda as a red glow filled the sky above the city.
Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist in the lakeside city of around 2 million, said Goma did not appear to be at risk, and lava appeared to be flowing east in the direction of the Rwandan border. Earlier he had said he thought lava might hit Goma, but he later said this was not the case.
“I can see high lava fountains,” Tedesco said.
A United Nations source said a reconnaissance flight by a U.N. helicopter appeared to show the lava was not flowing toward Goma or any major population centres.
Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and making 120,000 people homeless after the lava flowed into Goma.
“The government is closely monitoring the situation in Goma,” Congo’s government spokesman, Patrick Muyaya, said on Twitter.
“The local authorities are currently evaluating the situation with the volcanological observatory in Goma … The population is encouraged to remain calm.”
Volcano watchers have been worried that the volcanic activity observed in the last five years at Nyiragongo mirrors that in the years preceding eruptions in 1977 and 2002.
Volcanologists at the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG), which monitors Nyiragongo, have struggled to make basic checks since the World Bank cut funding amid embezzlement allegations. Reuters