July 26, 2021

“We ran to Rwanda, the lava was running behind us”

Tents have been hammered in the middle of cabbage fields, mud houses and volcanic rocks by members of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Busasamana camp, located a few kilometers from the Congolese border, north of the city of Gisenyi, Rwanda, was opened in haste to accommodate the displaced people from Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who fled the eruption of Nyiragongo on May 22. The silhouette of the Virungas is outlined on the horizon: eight volcanoes between the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, all asleep with the exception of Nyiragongo, considered the most dangerous in Africa, and Nyamuragira.

“We were cooking when we saw the smoke”, remembers Bayahure Hakizimana, her youngest hanged at her breast. “At first, we thought of wood fires. But then we saw things coming out of the volcano. That’s when we realized it was erupting. So we ran to Rwanda. And the lava was running behind us. “ His house and his three fields are now completely charred.

Read also The Nyiragongo, considered the most dangerous volcano in Africa

In his village at the foot of the volcano as in the rest of the region, no one saw anything happening. Some point to the mismanagement and lack of resources of the Goma Volcanological Observatory which, according to UN radio Okapi, had not been monitoring the volcano for seven months for lack of funding after the end of a Bank support program. world last June.

Situation map of the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

550 children have reportedly lost their parents

Today, Bayahure finds herself alone with one of her children in Rwanda. “I don’t know where my husband and my other son are. I have no way of contacting them. It was night and we were running to save our lives. Everyone went in different directions ”, she blurted out. Many families have thus been separated during the various population movements since the eruption.

Residents first fled the hundreds of earthquakes with a magnitude of 1.7 to 5.2 on the Richter scale that destroyed homes and cracked roads. Hundreds of thousands more then followed the order to partially evacuate Goma on Thursday, May 27. Most went west to Sake, south to Bukavu, by boat on Lake Kivu, north to Rutshuru and to a lesser extent east to Rwanda. At least 550 children have reportedly lost their parents en route, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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