The eastern DR Congo city of Goma was almost deserted on Friday after residents fled following a warning that the Nyiragongo volcano could erupt again.
Located on the shore of Lake Kivu, Goma has been on the brink since Africa’s most active volcano erupted on Saturday, killing 32 people.
Scientists monitoring the volcano have warned of a potentially catastrophic scenario – a “limnic eruption” that could suffocate the area with suffocating carbon dioxide.
Friday was quiet in the city, with all shops closed and only a handful of people on the street.
Guards were seen standing around the local mansions, with shutters on their windows, on the shore of Lake Kivu.
An AFP reporter said the city’s aftershocks had subsided overnight.
Some families poured out of town on foot, while others negotiated with motorcycle taxi drivers to get them out. On Thursday tens of thousands left Goma.
Experts conducted a risk assessment at the top of the volcano, the government said.
General Constant Ndima, the military governor of North Kivu province, has ordered the evacuation of a part of the city of more than 600,000 inhabitants.
“At the moment we cannot rule out an eruption on land or under the lake, which could happen very quickly and without warning,” he said.
Authorities had arranged transport to Sake, about 12 miles west of Goma, he added.
Although tens of thousands of people fled Goma after Nyiragongo erupted on Saturday night, many later returned.
But strong aftershocks continued to rattle the city, causing some buildings to collapse and scare residents.
The volcano spewed out two rivers of molten rock during the eruption, one of which came to rest on the outskirts of Goma after destroying villages in its wake.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said more than 4,500 homes have been destroyed, affecting about 20,000 people.
Local volcanologists have recorded hundreds of aftershocks since Nyiragongo, which is just a dozen kilometers (eight miles) from Goma, came back to life. Nyiragongo, a so-called strato volcano nearly 3,500 meters high, stretches across the tectonic canyon of the East African Rift.
The last major eruption, in 2002, claimed about 100 lives. The deadliest eruption on record killed more than 600 people in 1977.