Justin Katumwa/AFP via Getty Images
Hundreds of homes and buildings near Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been destroyed, buried by lava that spewed from the volcano when it erupted on Saturday night.
A government spokesman on Sunday said at least 15 people are dead, including nine who were killed in a traffic accident as they tried to flee the area and four others who died while trying to escape from a prison. It is expected that the death toll will rise once authorities reach the hardest-hit areas, BBC News reports. UNICEF said 150 children were separated from their families during the chaos, and another 170 are feared missing.
Thousands of people tried to outrun the volcano, escaping with whatever they could carry from their homes. Tom Peyre-Costa of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Goma told the BBC the lava was moving “pretty slow,” but it “didn’t stop. … It started burning the houses.” He added that already, there are humanitarian groups on the ground working to help people who have lost their homes.
Nyiragongo is a more active volcano, and earlier this month, the Goma Volcano Observatory issued a report warning that seismic activity there had increased. The last time the volcano erupted was in 2002, leaving 250 people dead and 120,000 homeless.