Congolese authorities have activated an evacuation plan for the populous city of Goma following eruption of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano on Saturday evening.
The evacuation decision was made during an emergency meeting held by Prime Minister Sama Lukonde, amid mounting concern over the scope of lava flows and their impact. Many of the Goma residents were fleeing east into Rwanda from the city, which lies on the border at the north end of Lake Kivu.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, but an aerial view of the lava flows taken by MONUSCO, the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, appeared to show widespread areas of glowing lava believed to be moving away from the city. Other social media images showed Goma residents already fleeing or waiting at the Rwandan border crossing.
The North Kivu regional government said the eruption began about 5 p.m. local time. The status of the volcano was previously in a yellow caution state, according to the Goma observatory monitoring Mount Nyiragongo, with an increase in activity noted in recent weeks.
A 2002 eruption poured lava over 13 percent of the city – home to up to 2 million people – and claimed at least 100 lives. About 400,000 people were displaced by the volcano, which is among the most active in the world.