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Strong Earthquakes Near DRC Volcano Raise Fears of Second Eruption


Lava from the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo cuts through Buhene north of Goma, Congo, May 24, 2021.

Regional officials reported strong earthquakes Tuesday in the area surrounding the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Mount Nyiragongo volcano, three days after it erupted, killing 32 people, destroying villages, and displacing at least 5,000 residents.

The Rwanda Seismic Monitor reported on its Twitter account several quakes Tuesday, including a 5.3-magnitude quake in the borderlands between Rwanda and the eastern DRC, near Mount Nyiragongo. The quakes have raised fears among locals that the volcano could erupt again.

Mount Nyiragongo — one of Africa’s most active — erupted Saturday for the first time since 2002, sending a river of lava downhill toward Goma, a city of some 2 million people 13 kilometers away. The molten rock stopped a few hundred meters short of city limits, but not before it destroyed about 1,000 homes, officials said.

At a briefing in Geneva, U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters that 32 people died in incidents related to the eruption, including seven people killed by lava and five asphyxiated by gas.

He said two villages on Goma’s northern tip were destroyed, and two others were partially covered by lava. Several neighborhoods were left without electricity, and there are fears of water shortages.

Cheshirkov briefed reporters following a joint evaluation involving the DRC government, the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies. UNICEF reported that more than 150 children were separated from their families amid the chaos and more than 170 children are feared missing.

Along with the tremors, the UNHCR reports the lava lake in the volcano's crater appears to have refilled, adding to fears of a second eruption.

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