Three months after the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, life resumed in Goma. But experts say residents are yet to come out of the woods and the threat to the city remains. Fearing that one day this regional capital of the DR Congo will disappear under the lava, researchers, authorities and international partners are mobilizing to try to control the risks. Report by our correspondents Clément Bonnerot and Juliette Dubois.
It was a night that the people 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 side of Mount Nyiragongo, destroying everything in its path. Within hours, tens of thousands of people fled to Sake, 30 kilometers to the west, and to neighboring Rwanda. The night of horror and despair brought back painful memories of the previous eruption of 2002, in which more than 3,000 people lost their lives.
This time around, hundreds of homes were destroyed. But the lava stopped a few hundred yards from the city limits, miraculously sparing most of the center. Experts, however, say the residents are not yet out of the woods: Goma and its nearly two million inhabitants are ultimately doomed to disappear.
In this report, our correspondents take stock of the threat to 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 predict and prevent risks, but the OVG is severely underfunded and plagued by suspicion of corruption and embezzlement.
To avoid a major disaster, authorities are planning to move part of the city to Sake, a colossal project on which the government has not yet set a price. But convincing people to leave the lands they have occupied for centuries will necessarily be difficult.