Thousands return home in east Congo after volcano eruption

GOMA, Congo — Thousands of people are returning to Goma and a surrounding region in eastern Congo hoping to find their homes still intact weeks after a volcano erupted, but fearing the worst.

The eruption on May 22 of Mount Nyiragongo forced tens of thousands of people to flee with no warning as lava flowed through their communities.

More residents living on the outskirts of the North Kivu provincial capital were forced to evacuate again a week later when fears rose there would be another eruption. Authorities sent buses to take a number of people to safety in the town of Sake and other places in the days that followed.

But as people now start the journey home, they are worried about what awaits them and what help they will get.

“We had evacuated and the people stole everything we owned,” said Matuso Sumbuo, from Kihisi, in the outskirts of Goma. She complained that authorities have promised aid but said that they have not received any help yet.

“We, who lived from day to day with the small businesses, how we will live now?” she said before boarding a bus with her family to return home.

The government of Nord Kivu said that those who lost their houses will remain in shelters in different regions but the rest can go back to their houses.

The situation in Sake as well as in other towns receiving those displaced by the eruption was challenging.

“Here we were living on our own because since we arrived, we only received food once from WFP (the World Food Program), but it was not enough” said Esperance Suzane, who carried her belongs in a bag as she prepared to return home.

The last eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanos, was in 2002, leaving hundreds dead. The lava coated the airport runways and also left more than 100,000 homeless in the aftermath. The volcano also erupted in 1977, killing more than 600 people.