(DailyMail Uk) – People pause to snap selfies in front of their burning homes as thousands flee rivers of boiling lava as a volcano in DR Congo erupts.
Residents of Goma posed in front of the wreckage as the lava came to a halt on the outskirts of the city on Sunday 23 May, sparing it from disaster after the night-time eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano.
Thousands of other residents fled as the molten rock swallowed up houses, heading towards Goma airport on the shores of Lake Kivu.
But the military governor of North Kivu province said ‘the city was spared’ by a matter of a few hundred yards after ‘the lava halted near Buhene on the outskirts of Goma’.
Five people were killed in accidents during the evacuations, said General Constant Ndima, appointed governor early this month when the province was placed under a ‘state of siege’ to combat violence by armed groups.
Ndima reported some thefts from shops and an attempted escape of inmates from Goma prison but said ‘the situation is under control.’
Many families slept on pavements surrounded by their belongings after they frantically grabbed mattresses and fled towards the frontier.
Ndima said around 7,000 people fled overnight to neighbouring Rwanda before returning.
‘All the Goma residents returned home without incident this morning after spending the night in emergency shelters which Rwanda set up, mainly schools,’ said Rwanda’s minister for emergency management, Marie Solange Kayisire.
She added: ‘Only about 100 of them are still in Rwanda but they are people who have cars who spent the night in hotels.’
The morning brought around a dozen earth tremors, prompting Pope Francis to offer a special prayer for Goma in his Sunday Vatican address.
Tourists who were near the crater when the volcano erupted are safe, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) tweeted.
They added the rare mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park, where Mount Nyiragongo is located, were likewise not threatened by the eruption.
A few cars were on seen on the streets Sunday, but no police or military presence was visible.
On Saturday, Communications Minister Patrick Muyaya had said that the government had activated an evacuation plan and was ‘discussing the urgent measures to take at present.’
The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, said he would ‘interrupt his stay in Europe to return home this Sunday to supervise the coordination of aid’.
General Ndima said Monusco, the UN mission in the country, NGOs and international organisations in the DRC would hold an emergency meeting on the crisis later Sunday with local and regional authorities.
The first departures from Goma city came even before the official confirmation that Mount Nyiragongo had erupted at around 7:00 pm Saturday.
Power was already cut in large parts of the city when hundreds of residents began leaving their homes.