Tension, Vigilance in Goma, DR Congo amid Tremors from Volcanic Eruption: Catholic Officer

Lava from Mount Nyiragongo in Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo/ Courtesy Photo

Tension is still high in Goma, a city in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that is experiencing earth tremors as the aftermath of a volcanic eruption that rocked the city over the weekend.

In an interview with ACI Africa on Monday, May 24, Nelson Mantama, the officer in charge of communications at the Catholic Youth Centre of Goma Diocese said that residents of Goma in North Kivu are however vigilant and on high alert even as the eruption seems to have slowed down.

He said that Sunday, May 23 was especially a difficult day for those who have been displaced by the eruption.

“As far as the situation in the city of Goma, in North Kivu, is concerned, yesterday was a very troubled day, a day with a lot of movements and a day with a lot of tension following the volcanic eruption,” Mr. Mantama told ACI Africa.

He added, “Calm is returning to the city because the eruption has slowed down. There’s less panic and people who had vacated to other places have started to return with caution.”


The Communications officer also shared that lava flow from the eruption stopped right at the entrance to the city of Goma.

Reports indicate that at least 15 people have been confirmed dead following the eruption on Saturday, May 22 of Mt. Nyiragongo. The eruption sent lava downhill towards the lakeside city of about 2 million people.

Thousands fled towards Sake, an area 27 km away from the city of Goma while many others sought refuge at the nearby border with Rwanda.

Pope Francis has since asked for prayers for those affected by the eruption, saying, “Let us pray for the population in the city of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, that is forced to flee because of the eruption of the Nyiragongo Volcano.”

In the May 24 interview with ACI Africa, Mr. Mantama said that people are still in panic owing to the ongoing earth tremors.

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“Today, the situation is not at all disturbing, but we are noticing some concern and a little bit of alert, of panic following tremors that shook the environment. And as a result, the population seemed to be getting scared again,” he said.

The Communications official said that the people are, however, following the directives of the government and the OVG (Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma), the body that monitors volcanoes in the Central African nation.

He told ACI Africa that though there is no active eruption on the surface, active cracks can still be seen and the cracks are sending panic among the people.

Despite the panic, he further said, a majority of people who fled toward Rwanda are beginning to return to their respective homes.

“There is another part that went to the Sake area, which is also back in the city, but still on alert. If the situation worsens, this same population will go in the same direction,” the Congolese communications officer with the Catholic Diocese of Goma said.


He expressed optimism that the situation in the country is under control, saying, “Apart from these tremors, we have faith that the situation will not become as serious as it was yesterday, and we think that everything will be fine, God willing.”

The Diocese’s communications office is waiting for communication from the government to alert the people, especially in the Diocese on the next step, Mr. Mantama said.

“We are on guard so that as soon as the government and the authorities communicate to us, we will also have to do our job as communication officers to communicate with the faithful at the Diocesan level and see what measures to take,” he further says, adding that the faithful are adhering to the call by Bishop Willy Ngumbi of the Diocese of Goma following the calamity.

Learning has been suspended in the region to allow for safety of children and college students, the Catholic Communications official said.

Meanwhile, Parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish of Goma Diocese beat their fear and attended a Confirmation ceremony at the Catholic Parish.

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“There was a lot of fear that the activity or the ceremony would be cancelled. But the Bishop took the courage to call all these Christians to come and receive the sacrament,” Mr. Mantama told ACI Africa, and added, “Even though there were tremors, the Bishop had the courage and the faith to call the people to the Parish to receive this sacrament.”

“It was not easy,” the Communications official says, adding that despite the tension, some Parishioners who had fled toward Rwanda came back to witness the celebration of Pentecost Sunday.

Mr. Mantama is appealing to the international community to reach out to those who have been affected by the volcanic eruption, especially those who have been displaced.

Given the current situation in the Province of North Kivu in DRC, “we invite and appeal to the international community to take control of this disaster in order to provide a response.”

He makes reference to the Holy Father’s call for prayers for DRC, saying that the call is a platform for the world to show solidarity with the country that is located in Central Africa.

“Yesterday, the Pope launched a prayer for the Democratic Republic of Congo and more particularly for the city of Goma and the province of North Kivu. We would like this to serve as a basis for an appeal for support and solidarity so that the population, which is currently frustrated, can feel comforted,” he said.

Mr. Mantama said that his office has mobilized Catholic youths to help parents locate their missing children.

“So far we have been able to reunite more than 60 children with their families but the work continues,” he said, and went on to appeal for prayers.

According to the Chancellor of Goma Diocese, Fr. Celestin Muhindo, the Catholic Church in the Diocese that is in the Ecclesiastical Province of Bukavu is close to those affected by the volcanic eruption spiritually, psychologically, and materially.

“Through our Caritas, we have been able to identify some of the people affected,” Fr. Muhindo told ACI Africa in the Monday, May 24 interview.

He explained, “We have been providing food and shelter to this group of people. Together with the governor of the province, we have been seeking ways to help them better.”

The Congolese Catholic Priest calls on the people to remain vigilant and follow the directives from government agencies that are monitoring the volcanic eruption.