Nyiragongo Volcano is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world and the first in Africa. It is highly active in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, North Kivu province. It is precisely located in the Virunga National Park and surrounded by many villages and towns, including Goma town in DRCongo and Gisenyi town in the Republic of Rwanda.
On Sunday 22nd May 2021, at exactly 7pm, the skies turned into red, the glimmer was too much and abnormal. It significantly increased and all the people around Goma found it strange, fear and anguish spread all over each part of the body. Few minutes later social media spread the news until it reached to other communication platforms such as radios, TV, websites and late at night, the news was confirmed by the North-Kivu province governor.
Approximately 38 people passed away. Some were burnt alive in their homes especially elderly and sick people, other succumbed from collateral effects such as heart attacks and road accidents. Thousands fled, abandoning their houses to save their lives. The main destination was the nearby town in Rwanda (Gisenyi) and other cities of Congo such as Sake, Minova, Bukavu and Rutshuru. The poor and the rich found themselves in the same situation but the impacts were not similar between the two groups. People walked long distances to find safe places, trekking without water, food and shelter, until they reached their destination.
Thousands of people were displaced, and found themselves wandering in the middle of the night. Families disintegrated and many children were lost and separated from their own families. Goma town in Congo and Gisenyi Town in Rwanda were fissured and people lost their houses due to the earthquakes.
The biodiversity of the Virunga National Park was vulnerable and until now it is still at a higher risk of pollution. Trees, reptiles, rats and other invertebrate species were ruined as the scientists reported. Adding to this, the ashes, contaminated plume, the carbon dioxide, earthquakes and sulfur dioxide, remain the dangers associated to the volcanic activity in the area. This situation is a threat to our mother planet, to the population in general, to the vulnerable communities, groups of people and other species (Disabled people, albinos, indigenous communities, children, pregnant women, elderly people, sick person, vegetation, livestock, etc)
This appears not as a one-country problem but a regional problem. Natural hazards are obvious and always come with unbearable side effects on the environment including plants, people, soil, water, air, livestock, etc. It is a strong message that we should take serious actions to help reduce the impacts of the incidents. Actions such as tree planting to reduce the effects of air pollution, observing the safety measures, caring for the poor and victims of the eruption, to increase outreach campaigns and raise awareness on how to live and adjust with the volcano. This is one of the ways to promote and implement the Laudato Si as it is recommended to us by Pope Francis.
CYNESA DR Congo.