Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, erupted late Saturday and forced thousands of residents in North Kivu’s Goma to flee to Rwanda.
The Volcano Observatory and Civil Protection confirmed the eruption of Nyiragongo volcano at 7 p.m. local time.
Sources said lava appeared to be flowing north toward Goma.
Witnesses on the Rwandan border town of Rubavu said people carrying luggage including suitcases, mattresses and other personal effects arrived in Rwanda in droves as a red glow filled the sky above the city of about 2 million people.
Rubavu district received more than 3,500 Congolese seeking refuge from the eruption, Rwandan Ministry of Emergency Management said in a tweet.
It noted a national contingency plan was in place to ensure safety and humanitarian services to fleeing residents.
Local leader Gilbert Habyarimana told journalists that schools and places of worship had been prepared to accommodate fleeing Congolese.
Earlier, Kivu province Governor, Constant Ndima, urged panicky residents in Goma and surrounding areas to remain calm, saying the authorities would inform them on safety following expert information.
Congolese authorities urged all gas station owners to make arrangements to empty tanks to avoid possible explosions.
Emergency physicians were also required not to leave the city but to remain on standby as nearby hospitals were advised to evacuate patients to health facilities.
“The public must follow the instructions of the provincial civil protection coordinator, according to the contingency plan in place,” said Ndima.
Volcano watchers earlier said they were analyzing the situation after heavy volcanic activity was observed with visible red sparks coming from the crater.
At least 250 people were killed when Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002 and 120,000 were left homeless after lava flowed into Goma.