Goma Residents in DR Congo “preparing for the worst” amid Earth Tremors: Catholic Nun

Eruption of the volcanic Mount Nyirangongo on the eastern frontier of the the Republic of the Congo.Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

There is a mounting humanitarian crisis in areas around the city of Goma on the Eastern frontier of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo and the subsequent earth tremors that have left people fearing for the worst.

Sr. Florida Bugagara, a Catholic Religious and Prioress of the congregation of the Daughters of the Resurrection, who is based in the city speaks of a “mass exodus of people” out of the city in an interview with Catholic Pontifical Organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International.

“The people are in danger and in need. We are preparing for the worst. I fear it may develop into a humanitarian crisis,” Sr. Florida tells ACN in a report published Tuesday, June 1.

In the report, the Religious Sister narrates that people have fled from Goma into the surrounding countryside in what appears to be a growing humanitarian crisis.

“Many people are camping on the roadside or in the hills and mountains. They have no shelter and no extra clothing. And there is a lack of food and water as well. I am also worried that there could be an outbreak of disease, as a result of the precarious hygiene conditions among those who are fleeing,” she says.


There have been reports of subsequent tremors in Goma, a city of over 2 million people, indicating a possible further eruption and lava flow from Mount Nyiragongo, which is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Sr. Florida expresses optimism that the authorities in the country will continue to keep people regularly updated concerning a possible danger they face.

She says, “The governor has called on the people to be watchful and ordered those in the most endangered districts to evacuate. But nobody knows where the lava might emerge next, and everyone is running hither and thither chaotically. It is not a good situation.”

She tells the Pontifical charity organization that in the panic and chaos, many parents have become separated from their children and do not know what has happened to them.

Additionally, some members of Religious Congregations have been forced to flee, the Catholic Sister says.

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“As a Religious community, we are above all concerned as to how we can help the people,” Sr. Florida says, and adds, “Some of our Sisters are already helping in the refugee camps. The people really have nothing.”

Speaking to ACI Africa about the situation in Goma, the officer in charge of communications at the Catholic Youth Centre of Goma Diocese, Nelson Mantama, said that May 27 was a very difficult day for residents of the city.

“We woke up to an announcement from the governor directing the population to evacuate the city,” Mr. Mantama said, and added, “We saw hundreds of thousands of people going in different directions. Some of them went to Rwanda through the Great Barrier. Others took the way to Bukavu through the lake while others took the direction of Sake in the territory of North Kivu.”

He said it was not easy for the population because the residents left their homes under tension. 

“The information reached us at 1 a.m. and already at 4 a.m., we saw thousands of people rushing to leave the town. This situation caused a lot of traffic jams and a lot of stress, a lot of missing children,” the Catholic youth leader told ACI Africa May 29. 


Speaking to journalists May 29, Bishop Willy Ngumbi Ngengele of the Catholic Diocese of Goma said that with a large number of people needing assistance, people from neighboring cities need to “open their doors and receive the displaced.”

He further invited the Clergy and Religious with means of transport to “make them available to vulnerable people.”

Bishop Ngumbi cautioned the inhabitants of Goma against rushing to return to their respective homes saying “they must remain attentive and vigilant while waiting for the decision of the authorities, because the volcano is unpredictable.”

In the June 1 report by ACN International, Sr. Florida appeals for help from benefactors of the Catholic charity, saying, “We appeal to your benefactors to continue supporting ACN so that it can help the needy and disadvantaged people. And we pray to the Lord that he may continue to protect his people and take pity on them. And I ask your benefactors throughout the world to pray for our country, especially for those in the East.”

She says that amid the fear of another volcanic eruption, innocent civilians continue to be massacred in the province of North Kivu.

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The Religious Sister makes reference to the ongoing terrorism that has been inflicted by armed militias in the Eastern Provinces of DRC for many years now.

The people of the DRC are counting spiritually and materially on the benefactors of ACN, she insists, adding, “Please lift up your voices to the Lord and ask him to avert this catastrophe, for the sake of His great glory.”

Meanwhile, members of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), a Missionary Congregation that has been working in the DRC for more than 100 years, have relocated vulnerable children from two institutions in the city of Goma to a safer place.

In their Tuesday, June 1 report published by Mission Newswire, the leadership of the Don Bosco Ngangi Center in Goma says that the 250 children were moved from the “Ushindi orphanage home” and St. Kizito Institute where they lived under deplorable conditions.

“Don Bosco Ngangi Center was providing accommodations for 250 children in two sites until a new evacuation order forced them to move the children again,” SDB leadership says, adding that the “Mama Marguerite home” cares for 135 girls and small children while the “Gahinja home” has 95 children and boys up to age 19.

SDB members and the children have reportedly been moved to Shasha, a city located about 40 km from Goma, where the Salesians have a plantation of several hectares.

In the June 1 report, a Salesian missionary is quoted as saying, “A miracle happened, because the lava flow from the nearby volcano stopped a few meters from the Don Bosco Ngangi Center. The conditions in which these children are housed are precarious. No water, no electricity, no space to play, and not enough food.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.