Thousands in Congo flee from volcano

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The Independent Online

A volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo erupted, reportedly forcing thousands to flee as fires started by the lava spread to the eastern border town of Goma.

No fatalities had been reported last night, although United Nations workers in the area said that at least one village on the slopes of the 11,380ft Nyiragongo volcano had been destroyed. It is one of eight on the borders of Rwanda, Congo and Uganda.

People clutching possessions from sewing machines to ducks abandoned villages in the path of the molten rock, some leaving relatives behind. Trucks, buses and cars crammed the streets of Goma, a major crossing point into Rwanda, as residents sought to escape burning buildings near the town centre.

The ash and molten rock came to within half a mile of a UN base and an airport near Goma. By late afternoon, aid workers said that lava flows had advanced around five-and-a-half miles since the eruption at 9.30am (7.30GMT). A road north to the town of Rutshuru had been destroyed.

A UN spokesman in Kinshasa said more than 400 staff had moved to Goma and were ready to retreat into Rwanda.

Karine Morency, a UN worker, said: "It's hard to imagine that nobody has been killed in the villages near the mountain. Everything smells like burning."