Congo’s Mount Nyiragongo, located in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has erupted for the first time in nearly two decades Saturday, turning the night sky a fiery red and sending lava onto a major highway as panicked residents tried to flee Goma, a city of nearly 2 million.
There was no immediate word on any casualties, but witnesses said that lava already had engulfed one highway that connects Goma with the city of Beni in North Kivu province.
Mount Nyiragongo’s last eruption, in 2002, left hundreds dead and coated airport runways in lava. More than 100,000 people were left homeless in the aftermath, adding to the fear in Goma on Saturday night.
The United Nations’ peacekeeping operation in the area, MONUSCO, posted helicopter footage and wrote in French that the lava doesn’t appear to be heading directly towards the city of Goma, but that they “remain on alert.”
The Congolese government told the Associated Press it was enacting an evacuation plan, but the outlet reported the announcement came long after the eruption began and many had already begun to flee across the Rwandan border.
Reuters reported that thousands of residents in the city of Goma fled, some grabbing mattresses and other personal belongings. Many were heading to higher ground to avoid any flowing lava that might affect lower areas.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said he would be returning home on Sunday from Europe earlier than planned in order to assist in coordinating relief efforts.
This is an ongoing event. Check back for updates.