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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 16:00 GMT
UK pledges to aid volcano victims
jack straw
Jack Straw is to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo
Jack Straw is to investigate how international aid can best help victims of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Foreign Secretary is due to visit the Central African nation on Monday on a long-planned tour of the region with his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine.

The visit's main purpose is to urge leaders to end the country's years of civil war.

But Mr Straw said: "We will of course be expressing our sympathies for the suffering caused by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo and seeing what the international community can do to help."

DR Congo map

United Nations officials estimate that 45 people have died in the 24 hours since red hot lava began pouring out of Mount Nyiragongo down through the eastern town of Goma and on into Lake Kivu, which straddles the Rwandan border.

European Union spokesman Michael Curtis said: "Most of the estimated population of 300,000 have fled from the danger zone, with many crossing the border into Rwanda."

At least 14 villages have reportedly been destroyed.

Christian Aid has pledged to send staff to the "potentially huge disaster" with 50,000 in emergency relief aid.

man watching lava in Goma
Red hot lava pours through Goma

A spokesman said: "The immediate need is for food, medical supplies, transport, shelter and blankets."

Liberal Democrat international development spokeswoman Jenny Tonge called for an end to the people in the region's "unbelievable" suffering.

"This is an opportunity for the warring factions to settle their differences and help the afflicted people in this area," she said.

"It is our responsibility to ensure this happens quickly and efficiently."

See also:

18 Jan 02 | Africa
Congo volcano 'kills dozens'
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