2 Million People Under Threat of Congo Volcano Eruption, Thousands Evacuate

Millions of people in Congo are facing the threat of a volcanic eruption by Mount Nyiragongo, prompting thousands to flee a city.

Lt. Gen Constat Ndima Kongba, the military governor of Congo's North Kivu province, ordered the evacuations of 10 of the 18 neighborhoods in Goma, a city with two million people.

Mount Nyiragongo erupted near Goma last week, but the city was not affected. But now Kongba said a new eruption could happen at any moment, as activity was reported near the city and Lake Kivu.

"Based on these scientific observations, we cannot currently rule out an eruption on land or under the lake," Kongba told the Associated Press. "This could happen with very little (or no) warning. An eruption under Lake Kivu could also have harmful consequences by leading to an explosion of gas in the lake, which could destroy parts of Goma and Gisenyi in neighboring Rwanda."

Congo Volcano
Goma residents are seen boarding a ferry after an evacuation order has been given on May 27, 2021. - The authorities in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on Thursday morning ordered the evacuation of part of the city because of the risk of eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano, immediately causing the exodus of tens of thousands of people. Guerchom NDEBO/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Residents were advised to carry very little and told not to return to their homes until advised by authorities. Officials said that vehicles will be provided to help the evacuation.

Many people were seen heading northwest toward the town of Sake and east toward Rwanda. International organizations such as the U.N. mission in Congo had on Wednesday already begun evacuating their staff.

Maguy Balume told The Associated Press by phone that she left her home with her two children and is heading for Sake.

"I am with my two children heading toward Sake, after leaving my home. My husband is on a mission in Kinshasa and I don't know how I'm going to meet him," she said. "I don't think about my house because my family's safety and health come first. I can build another house if I want to. I know that my God will save Goma."

Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world's most active volcanos, turned the dark sky fiery red Saturday night and then spewed torrents of lava into villages on the outskirts of Goma destroying more than 500 homes and resulting in the deaths of more than 32 people.

Mount Nyiragongo's last eruption was in 2002, leaving hundreds dead. The lava coated the airport runways and also left more than 100,000 homeless in the aftermath. The volcano also erupted in 1977, killing more than 600 people.

Goma, Congo Evacuation
Traffic clogs a main road as residents try to flee Goma, Congo, Thursday, May 27, 2021 , five days after Mount Nyiragongo erupted. Evacuation orders were given to most of the town, fearing further eruptions and tremors. Moses Sawasawa/AP Photo