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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 12:22 GMT
Looting and chaos follow Congo eruption
A boy walks in front of burning lava
Most houses in Goma have burned to the ground
By the BBC's Helen Vesperini on the Rwandan border

In the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo volcanic eruptions are continuing on Mount Nyiragongo, just outside the town of Goma, making it difficult to estimate the casualties from Thursday's two eruptions.

Grey smoke is still billowing out of a crater on the southern flank of the volcano.

The area between the volcano and the lake is blanketed in a huge cloud of white smoke and the whole area is covered in what looks like smog.

In some places, lava appeared to be solidifying but in other areas it remained molten.

Looting

As dawn broke over Goma, the fires had died down one by one, leaving clouds of billowing white smoke hanging over the town.

Civilians fleeing the volcano hit the roads to Rwanda
Civilians spoke of some relatives refusing to leave their homes

Military sources close to the town centre said a few buildings were still standing, but the town was completely deserted.

Some Congolese troops, however, had started looting and some Rwandan soldiers were trying to restrain them.

A stream of lava from the second eruption of the day swept through Goma with surprising speed on Thursday evening.

People who had been standing at the side of the road watching the lava suddenly found themselves fleeing for fear of being caught up in it.

Masses of them flocked across the border into Rwanda.

Casualties unclear

The result was a huge traffic jam, but as the lava came closer, many abandoned their cars and trucks and crossed over on foot.

In the Rwandan town of Gisenyi, hundreds of thousands of people woke up after a night spent by the side of the road, surrounded by goats and the few belongings they had been able to save - an iron here, a CD player there.

There has been no attempt so far to establish any casualty estimate.

However some displaced people told of relatives left behind because they had refused to leave the house, and said that realistically, there could be little hope for them now.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Helen Vespirini
"We have just felt two big earth tremors"
See also:

18 Jan 02 | Africa
Congo volcano 'kills dozens'
18 Jan 02 | Africa
Lava engulfs DR Congo town
31 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Early warning for volcanic mudslides
19 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Volcano teaches deadly lessons
15 Mar 00 | Europe
Living with a volcano
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