Church responds to community needs amidst ongoing volcanic activity in Eastern Congo

27 May 2021

Church destroyed by lava flow. Credit: Anglican Diocese of Goma

On Saturday 22nd May, Mount Nyiragongo erupted near the city of Goma in Eastern DR Congo. A lake of molten lava spilled down its side and flowed towards the city. An immediate needs assessment by the Diocese of Goma development team reports that the lava flow brought destruction in its wake, burning buildings, roads, fields and even livestock. Today the BBC reports that tens of thousands have again been evacuated from the city over fears of a further volcanic eruption. The authorities state that another eruption could happen at any time with little warning. There have also been over 200 aftershocks over the past few days, destroying several buildings. The volcano last erupted in 2002 when lava flooded the city of Goma.

At the time of the eruption, families fled out of Goma and surrounding villages in fear, some crossing over the border into Rwanda. Sadly, some children were separated from their families and work is ongoing to reunite families. As the lava flow missed the heart of Goma, casualties were relatively low, just 23 deaths and 41 missing – but this is still a tragedy for each family affected. However, as the lava flow reached to within a mile of the airport runway, there was a lot of structural damage.

The Diocese of Goma assessment reports 4,545 homes were burnt, eleven schools, six churches, ten electricity poles, two health centres, one antenna, a slaughterhouse, a wine factory, as well as fields of crops and livestock. The team worked with chiefs of the damaged villages and the territory administrator to assess the situation and the needs. They have identified immediate needs for food (beans, rice, salt, oil, maize flour and sugar) as well as hygiene needs (toilets, jerry cans, buckets, soap) and household goods such as pots, pans and plates. Homes have been destroyed by the lava flow, with just a few pieces of twisted corrugated roof sheets visible in the lava flow where homes used to be.

Lava flow through a village near Goma. Photo credit: Anglican Diocese of Goma

Seismic activity continues at Mount Nyiragongo: the lava lake is refilling and earthquakes are being felt both in Goma and its surrounds, and also in Rubavu District of Rwanda, which was also reached by lava flow. The ongoing earthquakes are continuing, some affecting before people they had time to evacuate.

Henri Kyausa, acting Provincial Secretary of the Anglican Church of Congo, reports: “The earthquakes became stronger and stronger on Monday and Tuesday. There are cracks in the centre of Goma town, buildings are shaking to this day …  impact will be getting bigger as the days go by. Humanitarian assistance is required.”

Please pray for the people of Goma and the surrounding region as they live each day in fear of further devastating earthquakes and lava flows and as they seek in time to rebuild their lives. Please also pray for the Church of Congo as it responds to human need in the midst of this terrifying volcanic eruption, along with the on-going traumas of conflict and the pandemic.