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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 14:18 GMT
Congo volcano: Your experiences
Lava flows from a volcanic eruption have ignited a petrol station in the Congolese town of Goma, killing about 50 people who were trying to siphon fuel from the elevated tanks.

The eruption itself killed about 45 people when a river of molten rock poured from a volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Despite continuing earth tremors and other hazards facing Goma, displaced residents have been streaming back from temporary camps across the border in Rwanda to see what remains of their homes.

One UN official has predicted "a human catastrophe".

Have you or anyone you know been affected by this volcano?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

At first I could not believe that the noise and smell came from a volcano

Steve Calderbank, Netherlands
I was working in Gisenyi last week. At first I could not believe that the noise and smell came from a volcano. I met the team from DOCS since it was one of my colleagues who rescued them, quite by chance since he was looking for someone else. The sight of the glow in the sky, the earth tremors and the calm way my colleagues at the brewery in Gisenyi reacted to what for many of them is a personal tragedy will remain with me a long time.
Steve Calderbank, Netherlands

I feel very strange at this moment. I was in Goma from December 1976 until August 1980. I witnessed the eruption of January 10, 1977. I know the panic, the fear and the pain people must be feeling at this time. The escape to Rwanda and the way we were treated by Rwanda then - I can imagine how much worse it has become today and my heart is breaking. Especially when I read that people rather go home and die instead of staying in the neighbouring country. May our prayers be with all these people.
Nicole A K Motongo, USA

I would like someone to explain why fairly strong earth tremors are continuing to be felt (there was one about 5 pm here in Kigali today Tuesday) if, as the French vulcanologist claims, the active phase of the volcanic eruption is finished. Do the tremors not indicate that the total situation is still unstable?
Richard Webber, Rwanda

We are just so relieved they are OK

Karen McKenzie, UK
My sister lives in Goma. Her husband is the director of DOCS (Doctors on Call for Service). We are just so relieved they are OK and that they are committed to staying and rebuilding the country.
Karen McKenzie, UK

I feel sorry for the poor families that have lost relatives and property. I call upon everybody to pray for an end to the desperate situation facing these families.
Prossy M Kisitu, Uganda

I ask my lord to help my people live in peace because they are already suffering from wars. I have family there and I don't want to loose them now.
Espérance Luamba, Belgium

I lived in Goma from 1999 to 2001 working with the UNHCR. All my friends and colleagues have lost everything. It is too sad for a town that has suffered so much in the last decade.
Giovanni Lepri, Colombia

I currently reside in the United States of America. I have family in Goma that have not been accounted for. At the moment we are only praying for them. I do not know how else we can help. We cannot send anything home so prayers are all we have to offer for the time being. I ask that you all join me in taking a moment to pray not only for your family and/or friends but for all the individuals that were affected by this tragedy. God bless.
Bahati, DR Congo

The resilience of men, women and children of this part of the world is great

Bert Lof, Netherlands
My two children were born in the hospital of Goma and we always felt very comfortable in (at that time) 'Zaire'. It is one of the most beautiful areas of the world but decades of upheaval and tragedy, especially after 1991, have struck the mostly innocent population of that region. If the international community is willing to help to rebuild this town, I am convinced that the people from Goma will pick up their lives again. The resilience of men, women and children of this part of the world is great. So to the international community, take up your responsibility - what you have not done in the early 90s - and help generously!
Bert Lof, Netherlands

How are you certain the people killed in the petrol station explosion were all looters? Is it possible to legally purchase petrol in Goma at the moment? If not, some of the people killed might have been trying to get petrol for their own use. If a volcano destroyed my own hometown and I needed petrol to look for relatives, I would get that petrol any way I could. The normal rules of property and ownership do not apply to emergency situations, where lives are at stake. I would not want to be branded a 'looter' in such circumstances.
Andrew Levens, UK

The eruption was powerful enough to wake me from my deep sleep. This has been a very shocking experience and I doubt it I will get over this disaster. It is a sad thing for it is happening to a country which is still struggling from a nasty civil war.
Abebe, Congo

Our house just vanished and it is now difficult to make out where our house was

Vipul Patel, Goma
The day of eruption I was in Goma. Initially we thought that nothing would be much serious but since noon things began to worsen and speed of lava flow increased engulfing the town of Goma and ending up in lake Kivu. A number of house and business establishments were effected - even our house just vanished and it is now difficult to make out where our house was. The people are sleeping on roads without proper food and water. What I feel is there are chances of severe epidemic. I request the world to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Goma
Vipul Patel, Goma

My home is at the foothills of Mt. Rwenzori an area so vulnerable to earthquakes. I sympathise with our brothers and sisters in Goma for I know what happens when nature strikes violently. I pray that God gives scientists more knowledge to predict such calamities so that the human race does not suffer.
Patrick Nyakahuma Kamara, Fort-Portal Uganda.

Goma is the only town in DR Congo I have ever known. I was brought up and educated there. All my family lives there. The thought of that city being under fire is devastating to me. My prayers go to my family, friends and all the people of Goma.
Theophile Ndabu, USA

My heart felt sorrow for the poor African people in the Congo Volcano area. I cried when I first saw it on TV. It must be a living hell having to endure what they have gone through. I hope things get better for them.
Tiberiouis Quysolly, age 12, USA

It made me scared when I heard that my dad was there in Goma when the volcano erupted

Erin Erickson (8 years old), USA
My dad was in Goma doing specialised surgeries when the volcano erupted. My mom talked to my dad last night. He said he was fine. He and his group of six people were safe in Kigali, Rwanda. He saw all these things that are happening. He told us of an orphanage that was trapped in a triangle of lava. He also told us that his friend, a dear Congolese friend chose to remain in Goma to try and help people. It is our prayer that he may be rejoined with his wife who is now in Kigali. It made me scared when I first heard that my dad was there in Goma when the volcano erupted. My family and I are so sad for all those people, families and children who are having to leave their homes and have lost everything.
Erin Erickson (8 years old), USA

The news of volcano eruptions in Nyiragongo came as a great shock to me as I was born in this town. This situation is terrible because these people have nothing to eat or drink and have to sleep outside. I ask the countries of the world to help the people of the Congo who have been devastated by this tragedy.
Nzitonda Miburo Vincent, Rwanda

It is unbelievable that DR Congo will be affected with another wave of human suffering and misery, after the profound suffering inflicted by chronic war. God direct the humanitarian aid to reach the needy and God bless the people most in need.
David Sokiri, Sudan

It is a scene of utter panic

Richard Morley, Lubumbashi, DRC
It is a scene of utter panic and obvious devastation as rescue workers do their best to avert what may turn out to be a quite terrible tragedy. We can only pray for good news as these events unfold.
Richard Morley, Lubumbashi, DRC

The news of these eruptions came as a great shock to me. I was born and brought up in Kisangani, DRC. I've been in Goma several times and many of my friends and some of my relatives lived in Goma. Apart from our Lord Jesus, nobody can obviously understand what the people of Goma are going through. All I want to tell the people of Goma and those affected is that the God knows their sufferings and may his peace and comfort be with them at this tragic time. God bless.
Chantal Batamuliza Mrimi, Scotland, UK

I'm sorry about the situation in my country, because all my family is there so I don't know how they are at this time. But I have hope that they are well.
Muhindo Lisune Ezechiel, Ukraine

I feel very sad to read about the disaster. May God protect these people.
Indrani, Sri Lanka

We are crying for help to all the nations.
Anatole Bandu, DRC/ Goma resident.

I keep praying for the Congolese not to give up hope. Suffering, panic, war - all this will come to the end. We have suffered enough from all kinds of persecution as well as torture. My sincere sympathy to the brothers and sisters in Congo, and God bless.
Honore Maurice, USA

This was the most terrifying experience I have ever had

Dave Hughes, Rwanda
I have only been living here for about six months and couldn't believe it when the whole house shook. I've never experienced an earthquake before, as I was born in England and this was the most terrifying experience I have ever had! My leg was badly injured when a cupboard fell on me as I tried to run for the door. The problem is there is nothing anyone can do against these natural monstrosities, they're lethal and unpreventable.
Dave Hughes, Rwanda

I was shocked when I heard the news of the volcano eruption in Goma, Congo. I experienced a mild tremor three weeks ago in Kigali. My friends in Kigali told me that there was a tremor on the day volcanoes in Goma erupted. I visited the place along with my wife in July 2002. About 300,000 people have fled Goma (Congo) to Gisenyi (Rwanda) and they are in a desperate situation. The local authorities are in a helpless situation and waiting for aids from international relief organisations. It is a great tragedy for those who have fled the country. I really feel very sorry for those people who have been defining, by the miseries they experience, what struggle is all about. May God the almighty be with the refugees and strengthen them at this moment.
Albert P'Rayan, Rwanda/India

We do not dare question nature but it's unfortunate that a region already torn by war has to experience such a natural catastrophe. People of Goma, though much separated from you, we think of you.
Samuel Mathenge, Kinshasa, DRC

I work for Doctors On Call For Service, a non-profit organization that provides post-graduate training and education to physicians in Congo. Our Learning Center is located in Goma, and we had a medical missions team from Wisconsin in Goma at the time of the eruption. The team, along with our Africa Director, his wife, and four others were trapped by the lava flow at the Director's home. Fortunately, they live on Lake Kivu.

They had to be evacuated by boat in order to escape. Their reports to us have described the catastrophe as "surreal and terrifying at times". They witnessed a fissure opening up in the ground nearby, spewing gas and smoke. The air is filled with acrid smoke and soot from the fires and volcano. They witnessed lava flowing into Lake Kivu which elevated the temperature to that of bath water. Near Gisenyi they were close to a gas station that exploded in what they could only describe as "Hollywood movie-style". Throngs of people, literally thousands, are camped on the roads near Gisenyi, which make them unpassable by vehicle.

There is absolutely no safe water available due to the destruction of two of the three water pumps. If safe water is not brought to the area immediately, there could be another disastrous situation similar to an earlier cholera outbreak. We are thankful for the safe evacuation of our associates, yet our thoughts, concerns, and prayers are also with the people of Goma, who yet again are faced with another catastrophic event.
Caroline Howser, United States

I'm a native of Goma, I grew up and got to love that town, it's my home town, I'm 21 and came in the US seven months ago to pursue my studies so I could work in my dad's hospital which has been destroyed. My parents work in the medical field and travel a lot to reach people in rural areas, this catastrophe occurred while they were all out of town, and now I'm concerned about my little sister and brother who stayed alone at home, especially that they are both asthmatics.

I'm afraid that the gas from the lava could hurt them, I'm concerned about their well being, and whether or not our house has been touched. I tried to get in touch with them by phone, but it couldn't get through, the lava has divided the town and our house is located in the part that don't have access to the way to flee in Rwanda, we live not far from the Doctor's on call Africa director's, and what I read from Caroline Howser a few lines above is making me more fearful.

Goma was a beautiful little town, the population has suffered for years of civil war and now there's this disaster, I don't have any home town anymore. It's so difficult for me and everyone that has lived in Goma. Let's all keep this town's population and future in our prayers and thoughts. God bless.
Allain H. Mumbere, United States

I worked in the Great Lakes area from 1994-97 as a water sanitation engineer with Red Cross and Oxfam. I have many friends whom I worked with in Goma and I pray that they and their families are safe. Those poor people have endured so much tragedy for so long one wonders when their suffering will end.
Bob Askew, New Zealand

It was powerful enough to shake the walls of our house

Judy Webber, Rwanda
We felt a small tremor in Kigali at 1720 local time today. We also had three tremors last night, the largest at 2010, which was powerful enough to shake the walls of our house.
Judy Webber, Rwanda

I am working here and my wife came here in April 2001. She had experienced the worst earthquake in India, and again she experienced here in Rwanda at around 9.45 pm the whole house shaking, We all ran out.
Shailendra Kaushik, Rwanda

My husband has been in Goma with a team of medical professionals for the past two weeks through the organization "Doctors on Call for Service". He has served the people selflessly as a reconstructive surgeon. On Thursday afternoon we received word of the news, through the organisation, and have been praying ever since for his safety and for the wonderful people of Goma. He was able to escape, by boat, into Rwanda, on Lake Kivu, early Friday morning, and is reportedly safe in Kigali now.

He will be returning home on Sunday, to us. I have only heard from him briefly and he explained the situation as "catastrophic" and "overwhelmingly desperate". He was witness to lava flowing, cracks in the ground with steam spewing forth and much more. He expressed sadness for the people that he has cared for and helped with so many reconstructive surgery cases. This organisation is a wonderful example of Christ's love for people and he hopes to return. I am most anxiously awaiting his return here. What a tragedy!
Andrea Van Ye, Unites States

May God protect our people and our land.
Bin Mudiandambo, Illinois, USA

I spent 10 years living and teaching in Goma. It was my home. Now what I'm hearing from BBC is very disturbing. The school where I taught, the Lycee ChemChemhas, been burned up, as well as the Cathedral.
Jane Quinlan, US

Surely African governments and people should be at first-hand to help in this tragic situation. Charity begins at home, and despite all our troubles, we could afford to help in whatever way with our little means. I hope we shall rise to the tragedy and help in alleviating the suffering. To the people of Goma, accept my sympathies and best wishes for a quick recovery for the injured, God Bless.
K.M.Nelson, U.K

I am very sorry for the people of DRC, they have been in civil war for sometime now and here comes a natural calamity. May God bring peace and happiness to this area.
Mbanzibwa Deusdedith, Tanzania

This is a horrific tragedy, and in an area that can little afford any more trauma. The repercussions include the interahamwe (genocidal militas) being forced out of their mountain hide outs by the erruptions. Separating out these groups from the genuine refugees is an immense challenge. And a challenge that the international community completely failed to rise to in 1994. In practice the camps in Goma in 1994-6, were also safe havens for those who had slaughtered 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda. We can only pray that lessons of the past are learned in the ensuing enthused, frenetic emergency response that is gripping the international community here.

Similarly the legacy of shoddy reporting that has plagued that situation would seem to be threatening to continue. David Chazan's article leaves quite a lot to be desired on a number of points, but I would be particularly interested in some clarification on his statement that 'some militiamen believed to have taken part in the attempted genocide of Rwanda's minority Tutsi community' were amongst the 1994 Goma refugees. That the militas were responsible for the genocide or that they were present in large numbers in the camps, organising and controlling the people within them are not widely disputed facts.
Karin Christiansen, Kigali, Rwanda

I hope to God it does not turn out to be as tragic as the Gujarat earthquake here.
Sudheer Unnithan, India

See also:

18 Jan 02 | Africa
Congo volcano 'kills dozens'
18 Jan 02 | Africa
In pictures: Volcano wreaks havoc
01 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Why volcanoes explode
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