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Mt Nyiragongo volcano eruption: More than 170 children still missing

By Jael Mboga and Agencies | May 24th 2021

Residents pick up remains of their destroyed homes from the smouldering lava deposited by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo volcano near Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 23, 2021. [Reuters]

More than 170 children are feared to be missing and more than 150 have been separated from their families as people fled the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo following Mount Nyiragongo's eruption on Saturday.

According to Unicef, more than 5,000 people crossed the border into Rwanda from Goma. At least 25,000 were displaced in Sake, 25km north-west of Goma. 

But most people are said to be slowly making their way back home since the lava has stopped flowing. 

There is concern about hundreds of people returning to Goma to find damaged homes and water and electricity shortages.  

It is not yet clear how many households have been affected by the eruption in the Nyiragongo Territory, north of Goma.  Scores of children in the area near Goma’s airport have been left homeless and destitute.

At least five deaths were directly related to the eruption in Buhene, Kibatshi and Kibumba. 

Humanitarian agencies have sent teams to install chlorination water points in and around Sake to limit the spread of cholera.

An aerial view shows lava flowing from the volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on May 22, 2021. [Reuters]

The teams are also expected to establish two transit centres for unaccompanied and separated children, in collaboration with the local Congolese authorities.

The agencies will also address cases of gender-based violence and abuse and ensure adequate medical and psychosocial support, Unicef said on its website. 

Nyiragongo's last eruption in 2002 left more than 100,000 people homeless. ­­It is considered one of the world's most active and dangerous volcanoes.

On Sunday, a United Nations source said all UN aircraft had been evacuated to the city of Bukavu to the south and Entebbe in neighbouring Uganda. The power was also out across much of Goma.

Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde convened an emergency meeting in the capital, Kinshasa, where the government activated an evacuation plan for Goma.

"We hope that the measures that have been taken this evening will allow the population to reach the points that were indicated to them in this plan," government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said in comments broadcast on national television.

President Felix Tshisekedi was expected to cut short a trip to Europe to return to Congo on Sunday, the presidency said on Twitter.

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