Anger, sadness and regret, a mix of these emotions is at play in Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It comes after the Nyiragongo volcano on Saturday and the failure of the Goma Volcano Observatory to issue prewarnings of any sort or kind. This to many is nothing short of a failure of responsibility.
“These people were alerted at the same time as we were. The eruption started at 6pm, but we were told to flee at 11pm while the volcano was more than 30km from the town of Goma. The eruption started without them knowing about it” Robert Ziwa Banza, a young leader in Goma lamented.
As the people of Goma try to come terms with the occurrence, and negligence of the authorities, calls are already being made for the opening of a judicial inquiry. Here again is Robert Ziwa Banza.
“If they didn’t observe the volcano for 7 months, what were they doing? Because they are paid, we see them every day in very nice jeeps, what are they doing if they didn’t monitor the volcano for 7 years. We were in the city since 2002, they came with the slogan that the next eruption will be announced to the population” Banza said.
“They even made a simulation, they have a siren, but we never heard it. We don’t know how we can have an organisation that has a precise mission, but that doesn’t know how to take responsibility. I think that justice must do its job, these people must be arrested for criminal negligence” the young man stressed.
But the Goma Volcano Observatory blames the financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The observatory says it lacks even the internet connection necessary for its operation. Kasereka Mahinda is the scientific director of the OVG, the Goma Volcano Observatory.
“The situation (Covid 19 pandemic) hit everyone, even the partners who were supporting us, even the government, the budget was destabilised, we didn’t have sufficient means to say that we were going to follow the normal rhythm of the volcano, so that’s true”. Kasereka Mahinda admitted.
“It happened to us when we were buying the megabytes. It’s not a volcano that you’re going to monitor with megas or that you take money out of your pocket to monitor, we went through this moment, this moment unfortunately we couldn’t receive the data, because at the OVG we receive the data in real time every four minutes, we couldn’t receive it with a Gigabyte”. Mahinda stressed.
The volcanic eruption left a smoking trail of destruction half a mile wide on Sunday, before halting just short of Goma. It spared the major city of about 2 million people but also left residents searching for missing loved ones.
However, at least fifteen were killed, including nine in a traffic accident as residents fled. four who tried to escape the Munzenze prison in Goma and two who were burned to death, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said in a statement.