Nyiragongo volcano erupts in the Congo and thousands flee - last hour

Moses Sawasawa Even before the official evacuation order hundreds of people had begun to leave the city

A new fracture opened up on the volcano, enabling lava to flow south towards Goma and reach the airport, on the eastern edge of the city.

On Saturday, Communications Minister Patrick Muyaya had said that the government had activated an evacuation plan and was "discussing the urgent measures to take at present".

A separate lava flow that headed east over unpopulated terrain toward Rwanda also appeared to have stopped, the reporter said.

Residents reported the smell of sulphur in the air and watched as the sky turned red.

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi stated he would be returning home on Sunday from Europe earlier than meant to assist correlative relief works.

"At least 3,000 people from Goma, in DRC, have already crossed to Rwanda", the public broadcaster the Rwanda Broadcast Agency tweeted citing the latest figures from Rwanda immigration authorities at the Rwanda-DRC border.

The volcano, located 10km (six miles) from Goma, last erupted in 2002 killing 250 people and making 120,000 homeless.

The Virunga Park official said Sunday "the flow is also descending on the town. It has now reached the airport", he said. Tedesco said the volcano has some of the fastest lava in the world.

"The eruption of Nyiragongo is similar to the eruption in 2002", he said, asking all residents near the airport to "evacuate without delay".

Others fled to Mount Goma, the highest point in the metropolitan area.

The night sky a glowing red and emitting lava onto the main highway as panicked residents adjudicated to leave Goma, a city of almost 2 million.

Volcano watchers have been anxious that the volcanic activity observed in the last five years at Nyiragongo mirrors that in the years preceding eruptions in 1977 and 2002.

"It is moving at a snail's pace, on three or four lanes", he said, adding: "There are children, women, old people who are on foot and the rain is coming". Electricity was out across large areas, and one highway that connects Goma with the city of Beni had already been engulfed by the lava.

In a May 10 report, the Goma Vulcanology Observatory warned that seismic activity around the volcano had increased and warranted careful monitoring. However, the observatory has been struggling to maintain its operations after the World Bank pulled funding over embezzlement claims.

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