17 Jan DR Congo: Volcano eruption
A soft rumbling broke the predawn silence in Goma. As the dogs began barking at the disturbance, the local population woke with a start.
“The volcanos have come back to life!”
During the day, magma flow rushed down the side of the mountain in three fiery tongues. One of them headed the 11 miles towards Goma city. Susan MacGregor, Air Serv Country Director, met with representatives of relief agencies, UN and US Government staff to plan for the evacuation of international staff from the city.
Suddenly, Susan received reports that a 3000-foot fissure had opened just one mile from the Goma airport. Time was suddenly critical! Susan diverted Air Serv aircraft to Kigali airport in Rwanda, and Air Serv’s ground staff in Goma gathered key equipment, jumped into the Land Rover, and headed for the border. Hours later, the team gathered in a hotel in Kigali with representatives of the other relief agencies and planned the reponse to this catastopic event.
Back in Goma, the population began to panic. Soon, over 300,000 people clogged the roads out of town. By nightfall, the lava reached the town cathedral, and gas stations exploded from the heat. Ash and soot filled the air. Over 250,000 refugees crossed into Rwanda, tripling the population of the border town of of Gisenyi. Food, water and sanitation resources were quickly overloaded. People collapsed on the side of the road to sleep. Help seemed lost.
The Air Serv team is already responding to the crisis. In addition to our three aircraft assigned to the Goma relief project, a cargo aircraft was lined up to deliver urgent cargo into the region as soon as the vocanic activity calmed. In Washington, Air Serv President, Stu Willcuts, met with officials in the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to make a strategy for a quick and effective response.
Security in the region is now at a crisis level. Saturday morning, Air Serv will return to the Congo to evacuate relief workers in the region surrounding Goma, and we will continue as the critical link, providing access to this troubled region, bringing hope to suffering people.