Source Pravda.Ru

Ecological and humanitarian catastrophe in Congo

Although the first eruption claimed far fewer than the reported 40 deaths in Goma on Thursday, with eye-witnesses saying that the real number was more probably four, Monday’s explosion at a petrol station killed between 60 and 100 people, who were in the process of filling jerry cans with looted petrol. It is thought that the hot lava set off the explosion.

Gas continues to leave the volcano as there are constant earthquakes and continued lava flows. If this lava reaches the depths of Lake Kivu, where there is a high concentration of methane gas in suspension, there could be an enormous explosion, the consequences of which could be catastrophic for the whole region. Apart from volcanic activity, this region is situated on a geological fault line, where two plates of the Earth’s crust meet. Much of the seismic activity has nothing to do with the volcanic activity, according to geologists contacted by Pravda.Ru.

Meanwhile the number of refugees caught in rebel-held territory between eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (ex-Zaire) and Rwanda, is causing concern. UNICEF estimates that there are around 350,000 refugees, 200,000 of these children under 15 years of age and 100,000 of them aged under 5. Many children were separated from their parents in the initial panic after the first eruption.

Many refugees are reported to be heading back into Goma, a substantial part of which has been swallowed by the lava, despite the danger posed by the continued eruption, to see if their homes are still standing. Looting has broken out as opportunists seize what they can in the mayhem, this being the other reason why people are returning to Goma when the international aid agencies are operating across the frontier in Rwanda.

The DR Congo security chief in Goma, Bizima Karaha, claimed that the international community has yet to turn its promises into action. “There are so many pledges but there are very few things that have been done concretely”, he said.

As far as the environment is concerned, the thick rainforests in this area are home to the largest concentration of wild gorillas in the world. At present the lava and gas emissions have not affected the areas in which they live but for the chimpanzee populations, the scenario is much more pessimistic. Experts say that the full impact of the eruption on the ecoxyxtem is yet to become apparent but they are warning of an ecological catastrophe of gigantic proportions.

Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru