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Sunday, 27 January, 2002, 13:54 GMT
Goma gets back to normal
A family surrounded by smoke from fires in Goma
Life is slowly returning to normal in Goma
By the BBC's Helen Vesperini in Goma

Just over a week after lava from the Mount Nyiragongo volcano devastated large parts of the town of Goma, there are signs that life is returning to normal.

Pop songs blare from street corners. The stream of lava that cut the city in two can now be crossed by car in two places.

And at Goma airport, Russian planes have started to land on the 2,000 metres of runway that has been cleared of lava.

An estimated 70% of those who lost their homes in the volcano eruption are living crammed in with friends and family.

Lucky ones

Sylvie, a mother-of-three hanging out her washing just a couple of metres from the sea of lava and burnt corrugated iron, said the family had been very lucky.

Aid worker protects blankets to be distributed in Goma
Some Goma residents think they can make money from aid

Her youngest child played with a piece of scrap metal in the dust. Their small house is now home to friends and neighbours.

In front of the house, women sell corn-on-the-cob and tomatoes over which a layer of black dust is rapidly settling.

It is not just the poor who were hit by the eruption.

Victor Ngezayo, a local millionaire, has moved out of his lake-shore villa, its gardens engulfed by lava, and settled down with his family in a hotel he owns on the far side of town.

"The main thing is that we're alive and well," he said.

This is a sentiment echoed across Goma by rich and poor.

'No despondency'

The inhabitants who lost family members, either at the time of the eruption or in the explosion of a petrol station a couple of days later, talk about it in sober terms.

The international community should put money into development aid and rural reinsertion programmes

Victor Ngezayo
But there is no feeling of despondency in the town. On the contrary, people are glad to be back in Goma regardless of the living conditions.

Some people reckon they can make money out of food aid.

Pedro admits his house was not destroyed and says he still has a means of making a living. But he went along to collect 26 kilos of food anyway, on the grounds that free food is always worth taking.

Long-term development

Mr Ngezayo, one of the founding members of the Nyiragongo Assistance Committee, is of the opinion that food aid should be kept to a minimum and that priority should be given to long-term development.

"We don't want to prolong the humanitarian aid operation" he said.

"The international community should put money into development aid and rural reinsertion programmes," he said.

Some of Goma's youth are still preoccupied with looting rather than ideas of agricultural development.

Pascal was carrying a large television set out of a lakeside villa all but surrounded by lava.

Asked what he was doing he answered defiantly: "God has given us this chance to share with the rich".

Congo volcano
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See also:

25 Jan 02 | Africa
First plane into Goma welcomed
23 Jan 02 | Africa
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22 Jan 02 | Health
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