Death Toll Increases in Congo Volcano Eruption

Officials say the volcanic eruption in eastern Congo from two days ago has killed at least 32 people as residents are still searching for their missing loved ones amid destroyed homes on the outskirts of the eastern city of Goma where aftershocks were detected.

U.N. children’s agency said the volcano eruption caused about 5,000 people to flee from one neighborhood of Goma, a city of about 2 million people, across the nearby border into Rwanda, another 25,000 others sought refuge to the northwest in Sake.

More than 170 children were still feared missing,UNICEF officials said they were organizing transit centers to help unaccompanied children in the wake of the disaster as more than 150 children were reportedly separated from their families.

The toll increased from 22 to 32 on Monday and is likely to continue rising.

Head of Civil Protection for the North Kivu province,Joseph Makundi said more than a dozen people died in car accidents while trying to escape while Others were killed when lava hit their homes.

The scientific director of the Volcanic Observatory of Goma,Celestin Kasereka Mahinda confirmed that some died from inhaling smoke or toxic gas when they were walking across a wide expanse of the cooling lava.

Mahinda said Scientists at the volcano observatory weren’t able to adequately warn the public of the eruption because of a funding cut.

“The observatory no longer has the support of the central government or of external donors, which explains why the volcanic eruption was such a surprise,” Mahinda told The Associated Press. A partnership between the government and the World Bank that had supported the observatory was cut in October 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the observatory without even internet.”

“The observatory had just started to resume operations last month thanks to new funding from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, which means the observatory can at least gather data after the eruption”

He urged the population to remain vigilant as the volcano remains active and earthquake tremors are being recorded.

The military governor of North Kivu province, Lt. Gen. Constant Ndima called on the population of Goma not to send children to school. Goma’s international airport of Goma and the airport in Kavumu in South Kivu province were closed for security reasons.

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