DR Congo orders Goma evacuation after Mount Nyiragongo erupts

Thousands flee their homes as lava from Mount Nyirangongo approaches Goma airport.

Video Transcript

LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: It had just gone dark when the skies above Goma turned an ominous color. Mount Nyiragongo began erupting around 7:00 PM, sending a river of molten lava down its steep slopes. It quickly engulfed roads and sent panicked residents running for safety. Many fled east towards the border with Rwanda. Others didn't know where to go.

RICHARD HAKIZA DIUOF: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: We've come from the village fleeing the fire from the volcano's lava. We looked into the sky and we saw the red color from the volcano. We are looking for a place to shelter.

JOHN KILOSHO: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: We don't know what to do. We don't even know how to act. There's no information, even on the national channel. People are panicking and we don't know if we should stay in the house or flee.

LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: Initially, scientists said the lava flow was heading away from Goma. But now, they're warning that new fractures are putting two million residents at risk.

DARIO TEDESCO: Seismic activity could probably, means that some other fractures are opening, or even simply, that the activity itself because it's the rift that is moving. It's not the volcano itself. The volcano opened because the rift is moving.

I think, the civil defense is already evacuating all the people. There were already signs that most of the people were going through Sarkis, on the western side of the volcano.

LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: The volcano lies at the Albertine rift, and it's been an ongoing threat to locals for decades. The last eruption in 2002, cut a path through Goma's business district and flowed into Lake Kivu. This, along with choking fumes, earthquakes and collapsed buildings, killed around 240 people.

A huge lava lake has remained since. Now, the risk from the eruption poses an immediate danger for people living below. The flow of molten rock is expanding and remains unpredictable. Laura Burdon-Manley, Al Jazeera.