At least 15 dead, dozens homeless after volcano erupts in Congo

<p>Mt. Nyiragongo in Congo <em>(Anadolu photo)</em></p>

Mt. Nyiragongo in Congo (Anadolu photo)

YAOUNDE, Cameroon – At least 15 people died after a large volcano erupted in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, authorities said late Sunday.

Thousands were forced to flee when Mt. Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted on Saturday, turning the sky red and spewing out a river of lava that threatened the nearly 2 million population of Goma, a city in the country’s North Kivu region.

The lava flow had stopped by Sunday morning, and people were slowly returning to destroyed or damaged houses.

At least 10 villages have been devastated by the eruption, government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya told a news conference.

He said nine victims died in a road accident as people fled the affected area, while two more were burned to death by the lava.

Four prisoners were killed while trying to escape from prison, he added.

A government delegation including seven ministers arrived in Goma on Monday morning to support provincial authorities in the emergency response, according to Muyaya.

As multiple seismic tremors were felt in Goma in the aftermath of the eruption, he said people have been advised to remain vigilant, avoid non-essential travel, and comply with government directives.

Parents have also been told not to send children to schools until further notice.

Local authorities said more than 5,000 residents of Goma fled to neighboring Rwanda on Saturday night.

According to UNICEF, at least 25,000 people were displaced in Sake, a town some 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) northwest of Goma.

More than 150 children were separated from their families and 170 children are feared missing, the UN agency said.

At least 250 people were killed when Mt. Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, while over 120,000 residents were left homeless as lava flowed into Goma. (Anadolu)