In Goma, burning questions remain after the volcanic eruption

Three months after the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, life resumed in Goma. But experts say the locals are not out of the woods yet and the threat to the city persists. Fearing that this regional capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will one day disappear under lava, researchers, authorities and international partners come together to try to manage the risks. Our correspondents Clément Bonnerot and Juliette Dubois report.

It was a night that the residents of Goma will remember for a long time. On May 22, around 6 p.m., the sky suddenly burst into flames. Lava poured down the slope of Mount Nyiragongo, destroying everything in its path. Within hours, tens of thousands had fled to Sake, 30 kilometers to the west, and neighboring Rwanda. The night of horror and despair brought back painful memories of the previous eruption in 2002, in which more than 3,000 people lost their lives.

This time, hundreds of homes were destroyed. But the lava stopped just hundreds of meters from the city limits, miraculously sparing most of downtown. However, experts say the locals are not out of the woods yet: Goma and its nearly two million residents are finally doomed to disappear.

The city of Goma, at the foot of the Nyiragongo volcano © Clément Bonnerot / France24

In this report, our correspondents take stock of the threat looming over the city. The danger comes not only from the volcano, but also from Lake Kivu, which contains huge amounts of potentially lethal gas. Researchers at the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG) are doing their best to forecast and prevent risks, but the OVG is critically underfunded and plagued by suspicions of corruption and embezzlement.

To avoid a bigger disaster, authorities are considering moving part of the city to the town of Sake, a colossal project for which the government has yet to set a price. But convincing residents to leave the land they have occupied for centuries will surely be difficult.

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