After the heavy eruption of the volcano Nyiragongo which lies some 10 kilometres north of Goma in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ECOM (the Emergency Corps of the Order of Malta), will prepare to provide help for the people in Goma with the members of those ECOM associations gratefully already on the spot, actually from Belgium and Germany. Thousands of residents of Goma and 14 villages nearby had fled their homes on thursday afternoon for nearby Rwanda as vast areas of the town were set ablaze by lava flows up to two metres high and 60 metres wide which cut across the town and destroyed dozens of houses. No information on casualties is available at this stage. It was the first eruption of Mount Nyiragongo since 1977, when lava flows killed almost 2,000 people in less than half an hour.
Dr. Adolf Diefenhardt, Regional Director Africa Programmes of Malteser Germany (the Order German Association), is on the spot in or-der to assess the situation. This morning, Dr. Diefenhardt has participated in a meeting of the representatives of different relief organisations held in Kinshasa in order to prepare immediate relief actions for the refugees; he is now on his flight to Bukavu. According to information coming from OCHA, UNHCR and the international press the people are returning to Goma since Friday morning in order to find out the state of their homes in a town which seems to be completely destroyed.
As Malteser Germany has been working in the Great Lakes Region since the beginning of the nineties in the fields of basic health care and nutrition programmes, ECOM now is in the position to take immediate measures in order to provide medical help for the refugees. In Goma, Malteser Germany has provided medical care for the civil war refugees from Rwanda until November 2000. Since 1996, Malteser Germany is on the spot in Bukavu (about 300 km from Goma) in order to give medical support to 50 health care centres in the region.
New information on the ECOM mission will be given as soon as possible.