(CNN) – About 8,000 people have entered Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to seek refuge following the eruption of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano, the Rwandan emergency management ministry said on Sunday.
“This morning, after the end of the lava flows from the Nyiragongo volcano, most of the Congolese evacuated to Rubavu are returning home. Rwanda received around 8,000 people last night, ”the ministry said on its official Twitter account.
Thousands of residents of Goma, a large city in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, spent the night outdoors after the eruption on Saturday, according to a spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“There was no massive panic, but people are really worried,” said Tom Peyre-Costa, Council spokesperson for West and Central Africa.
The evacuees first headed for Rwanda, Peyre-Costa told CNN. The border was closed, so they returned to Goma and headed for an area north of the city. Peyre-Costa posted a video of people leaving town on Twitter.
The situation in #Goma getting worse. The lava has reached the airport and shouldn’t stop before the lake. Massive population movements to the north or Rwanda. Some NGOs are evacuating. #Nyiragongo pic.twitter.com/G4HEjdHJFD
– Tom Peyre-Costa (@Tom_Peyre_Costa) May 22, 2021
“All over town you see people walking with their things, their children and even their goats and whatever else they could catch. Most of them are just sitting by the side of the road, waiting to get home anytime soon, ”Peyre-Costa said.
A total of 11 people have died from the eruption, officials said.
Five people died in a car crash when they tried to evacuate, Peyre-Costa told CNN.
Four prisoners also died trying to escape from Camp Munzenze prison in the wake of the eruption, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya told CNN. He said the prisoners “were trying to escape and could have run into the guards”.
Muyaya said two more people died on Sunday, but did not specify the circumstances.
According to NRC estimates, six hundred houses around Goma have been destroyed and five schools razed.
The volcanic eruption appears to have subsided, according to the Goma Volcano Observatory, which monitors the volcano. The city authorities have activated an evacuation plan as a precautionary measure.
“We arrived quickly, we weren’t expecting this kind of thing that just happened to us,” Théophile Tulinabo, a resident who fled his home after the eruption, told CNN in Buhene, a neighborhood north of. Goma. “And where are we going to live now? At the moment, we don’t know.
Furaha Grace, another resident speaking to CNN in Buhene, said she was in the local market when she had to flee the rash.
“When we came back to town, the houses were set on fire and some people became destitute. I had an accident and I was injured, ”she said. “So we are asking for help and especially food.”
The volcano last major eruption in 2002 killed 250 people and moved thousands.
Goma is located on the shores of Lake Kivu, on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Rwanda. The current population of the Goma metropolitan region in 2021 is 670,000, according to a projection by the UN, the World Bank and others.
Peyre-Costa said a number of non-governmental organizations in the region estimate Goma’s population to be closer to one million.
Patrick Kakesa of the International Organization of Security NGOs (INSO) said in a statement at 11 p.m. that lava appears to be flowing towards the border with Rwanda.
“In the event of an evacuation, customs between Goma and Gisenyi are closed overnight,” he said.
INSO advised aid workers living in Munigi camp, a short distance north of Goma, to move to villages further west.
Peyre-Costa and 11 of his colleague evacuated as a precaution.
“If the situation stays the same, maybe we can come back tonight, so we’ll see. We are waiting. We don’t know what’s going to happen, ”he said.
Volcanologist Honoré Chiraba of the Goma Volcano Observatory told CNN that there were two fractures in the volcano. Chiraba closely follows volcanic activity with the governor of North Kivu, the province where the city of Goma is located.
“The lava is flowing but not very fast,” Chiraba said. “At this point, we don’t think anyone is hurt, but we can’t know for sure.”
A message on the verified Twitter account of the British Embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said on Saturday: “The Nyiragongo volcano, near the city of Goma, began to erupt this evening. Current assessments indicate that the eruption does not threaten the city itself. Everyone must remain vigilant and the British concerned must contact us… We continue to monitor the situation closely.
The 11,500-foot-high volcano is one of many near the DRC’s border with Rwanda and Uganda, an area of tropical rainforest and rare mountain gorillas.
™ and © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.