Volcanoes threaten Rwandans

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Geneva (AFP) - The United Nations appealed yesterday for $710m (£470m) to help meet the latest danger to Rwandan refugees - two volcanoes which threaten almost 1 million people near Goma, Zaire.

The volcanoes, the Nyiragongo and the Nyamuragira, both in eastern Zaire, are under constant surveillance by Japanese experts.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, said: "We face a tremendous environmental challenge caused by increased volcanic activity in the Goma region. In co-operation with all UN agencies, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is preparing a contingency plan which considers the urgent relocation of the population."

There are five refugee camps in the area. Each holds between 100,000 and 200,000 people.

The Mugunga camp is deemed to be most at risk from an eruption of Mount Nyamuragira, but its lava would take at least two days to reach the camp.

But the fallout from an eruption of Nyiragongo, overlooking Goma, could be extremely serious, threatening not only the refugees but the entire population. Lava could take only hours to reach the city.

The volcano contingency forms part of a new, UN consolidated inter-agency appeal to meet the most acute needs of the refugees in 1995.

Mr Ogata also outlined a shift in UNHCR policy in the region, focusing primarily on the basic emergency needs of the more than 2 million Rwandan refugees in Zaire, Burundi and Tanzania.