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Volcano disaster: Terror and chaos as families flee rivers of lava.

Tens of thousands of people lost their homes after a volcano erupted in eastern Congo, creating a humanitarian disaster in a part of the world least prepared to cope with it.

Refugees continued to pour across the border into neighbouring Rwanda after Mount Nyiaragongo erupted on Thursday, sending streams of lava through Goma town and sweeping outlying villages into Lake Kivu.

Elizabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN in Geneva, said as many as half a million people are thought to have been affected by the disaster.

'This is terrible, my children have all disappeared, and I am confused and shocked,' said Mulili Flaha, a Goma housewife who fled to Rwanda when the lava approached her house. Her husband and five children all ran in different directions.

The road leading into Gisenyi in Rwanda was clogged with vehicles and people on foot carrying babies, foam mattresses and cooking pots.

'Right now we have no office or home because they were destroyed by the lava,' said businessman Eloi Mboso Kiamfu as he prepared to set off for the border. 'Goma almost does not exist any more.'

Florian Westphal, Red Cross regional information officer, said 80 per cent of the town had been damaged. Explosions continued throughout the day as molten lava ignited petrol and kerosene stored by residents in plastic containers.

Looters and armed robbers took advantage of the panic to make off with electronic equipment and other goods before the lava reached shops. At least 14 villages north of town were destroyed by three rivers of fire.

CAPTION(S):

A resident of Goma evacuates his belongings in front of the advancing lava
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 19, 2002
Words:272
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