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Mount Nyiragongo: At least 15 dead, over 170 children missing after volcano erupts in eastern Congo

GOMA, Congo – Torrents of lava poured into villages after dark in eastern Congo with little warning, leaving at least 15 people dead amid the chaos and destroying more than 500 homes, officials and survivors said Sunday.

The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo on Saturday night sent about 5,000 people fleeing from the city of Goma across the nearby border into Rwanda, while another 25,000 others sought refuge to the northwest in Sake, the U.N. children’s agency said Sunday.

More than 170 children were still feared missing Sunday and UNICEF officials said they were organizing transit centers to help unaccompanied children in the wake of the disaster.

Goma ultimately was largely spared the mass destruction it suffered the last time the volcano erupted back in 2002. Hundreds died then and more than 100,000 people were left homeless. But in outlying villages closer to the volcano, Sunday was marked by grief and uncertainty.

Aline Bichikwebo and her baby managed to escape when the lava flow reached her village, but said both her mother and father were among those who perished. Community members gave a provisional toll of 10 dead in Bugamba alone, though provincial authorities said it was too soon to know how many lives were lost.

Bichikwebo says she tried to rescue her father but wasn’t strong enough to move him to safety before the family’s home was ignited by lava.

“I am asking for help because everything we had is gone,” she said, clutching her baby. “We don’t even have a pot. We are now orphans and we have nothing.”

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