The Democratic Republic of Congo was hit with 61 earthquakes within a 24-hour period on Saturday, a week after the Mount Nyiragongo volcano erupted for the first time in nearly 20 years.
In a report from the Goma Volcano Observatory (GVO) that was obtained by CNN, officials informed the central African country’s government that the volcano’s crater “continues to collapse, which contributed to the earthquake and caused ash emissions visible from” the city of Goma.
The eruption last week from the volcano, which is located about nine miles north of Goma, has led to a series of earthquakes and tremors felt throughout the region, including as far at the Rwandan capital of Kigali, CNN reported.
Since last Saturday’s explosion, which killed at least 31 people, safety concerns have grown among local communities as officials are warning of a second potential eruption.
According to CNN, Saturday’s report detailed four possible future scenarios for the volcano, with the best case being that the earthquakes stop and no additional eruptions occur.
However, officials also noted in the report that a worst-case scenario could include an eruption under Lake Kivu that could emit toxic gas and cause debris to be sent flying into the air as a result of continued magma flow through a fissure toward the lake.
The GVO report said that lava flows can “cause asphyxiation, severe burns or death,” adding that “if lava erupts” in the river, residents should “keep a considerable distance away, as the explosions could produce dangerous ballistics.”
CNN noted that the report also said gas emissions could become more frequent in the coming months due to increased underground magma, with possible fissures releasing more concentrations of lethal gas.
Jens Laerke, spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in a news briefing in Geneva on Friday that an estimated 400,000 people have fled Goma amid warnings of a second eruption.
Laerke noted that “large traffic jams were observed yesterday on the main exit roads from Goma, people are moving in all directions, mostly on foot, carrying what they can, but also in cars, and on boats.”
The spokesman added that the “crisis is happening against the backdrop of a situation of already high needs in North Kivu.”
“Forty-four percent of the 5 million internally displaced persons in the [Democratic Republic of Congo] are in North Kivu, where also 33 percent of the population is severely food insecure,” he said Friday.