By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Hundreds of children are feared missing or were separated from their families after Mount Nyiragongo erupted in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said Sunday that the children were lost amid chaos as residents fled the nearby city of Goma. More than 150 children have been separated from their families and more than 170 children are feared to be missing.
Around 8,000 people crossed into Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to seek refuge following the eruption of the volcano, Rwanda’s Emergency Management Ministry said Sunday.
“This morning, after lava flows from Nyiragongo volcano have stopped, most of Congolese evacuated to Rubavu are returning back home. Rwanda received around 8000 people last night,” the ministry said on its official Twitter account.
Thousands of residents in Goma spent the night outdoors following eruption on Saturday, according to a spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
“There has not been a massive panic movement, but people are really worried,” said Tom Peyre-Costa, the council’s spokesperson for west and central Africa.
Evacuees first walked toward Rwanda, Peyre-Costa said. The border was closed, so they went back to Goma and headed to an area north of the city. Peyre-Costa posted to Twitter video of people leaving the city.
“Everywhere in the city you see people walking with their belongings, their children and even their goats and whatever they could grab. Most of them are just sitting by the road waiting to be able to go back any time soon,” Peyre-Costa said.
But hundreds could return to find damaged homes and dangerous shortages of water and electricity, UNICEF said.
The children’s agency is sending a team to the area to work on limiting the spread of cholera. It is also establishing two transit centers for unaccompanied and separated children, in collaboration with the local Congolese authorities.
Altogether, 11 people died in the aftermath of the eruption, officials said.
The volcano’s last major eruption in 2002 killed 250 people and displaced thousands.