UPDATE | Tourists and gorillas 'safe' after Congo volcano eruption

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  • A volcano has erupted in the Congo.
  • Tourists and animals from a national park were, however, unharmed.
  • The volcano erupted on Saturday. The Nyiragongo is one of the world's most active volcanoes. 

Tourists who were near the crater the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic Congo erupted are safe, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) said Sunday.

Nor were the rare mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park threatened by the eruption, the institue added.

"The tourists present yesterday at the crater are safe and sound", the institute, which oversees the wildlife sanctuary, said on Twitter, without indicating their numbers or nationalities.

The park, inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage list, covers 600 000 hectares of tropical rainforest that is notably home to the world's biggest population of eastern lowland gorillas.

The Nyiragongo volcano, whose slopes of which dominate the city of Goma and Lake Kivu, erupted suddenly on Saturday night, sending thousands of residents fleeing in panic.

A vast river of molten lava came to a halt Sunday on the outskirts of Goma, sparing the city.

The Goma region is a zone of intense seismic activity, with six volcanos, including Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, which rise to 3 470 and 3 058 metres respectively.

Eruptions are frequent, not just from craters but from the sides of the volcanos.

Earlier, lava from a volcano that erupted in Democratic Republic of Congo is reaching the airport in Goma, a volcanologist said on Saturday as the government activated plans to evacuate the city.

Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist based in Goma, said a new fracture has opened up on the volcano, and the lava is moving south toward Goma.

READ | Icelandic volcano erupts, lighting up night sky near Reykjavik

Nyiragongo, one of the world's most active volcanoes, erupted in the early evening on Saturday, tinging the sky above Goma, a lakeside city of around two million, with a red glow.

This general view taken on 22 May 2021 from Tchege
This general view taken on 22 May 2021 from Tchegera Island outside Goma on the lake Kivu in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo shows flame spewing from the Nyiragongo volcano.
AFP Alex Miles, AFP

Goma residents, remembering Nyiragongo's last eruption in 2002, which killed 250 people and left 120 000 homeless, grabbed mattresses and other belongings and fled toward the frontier with neighbouring Rwanda.

Power was out across much of the city and phone lines were busy, Reuters reporters said.

The prime minister convened an emergency meeting in Kinshasa, the capital.

"The evacuation plan for the city of Goma has been activated. The government is discussing urgent measures to take immediately," government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya said on Twitter.

It was not immediately clear if an evacuation was going ahead on the ground.

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