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US Sends Teams to Assess Volcano Damage in DRC - 2002-01-20

An international relief effort is under way to help people in the eastern Congolese city of Goma who are fleeing an erupting volcano that has already covered much of the city with lava, destroying thousands of homes and making what's not covered uninhabitable. The United States is sending in disaster relief experts and airlifting relief supplies to the region.

American relief teams are heading to the region to assess the needs of thousands of people trying to escape expanding rivers of molten lava that have already covered streets and villages since the volcano began erupting Thursday.

In addition to $25,000 earmarked for relief aid, the United States is sending in some 20,000 blankets, as well as water containers and other supplies. Many of the people force to flee Goma wound up there as refugees from central Africa's civil wars. Now they're being turned into refugees again, this time by mother nature.

Estimates are that scores of people have been killed. Perhaps as many as half a million have been uprooted by a volcanic eruption that has covered much of Goma in lava, with strong tremors, an indication of perhaps further eruptions to come - that have been felt as far away as the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Thousands of homes are reported destroyed by rivers of lava, along with the main airstrip at Goma's airport.