Desperate search for children missing after the eruption

Lava flowing from Mount Nyiragongo on Saturday evening paved the way for destroying the northern part of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

About 500 homes have been flattened, and UNICEF, a UN children’s fund, says more than 100 children have gone missing after being separated from their parents.

Charles Cambale has been sorting out rubble at the location of the Buhene district where his house was.

“I haven’t seen my two youngest children yet,” he said.

He was having a wedding with this wife when the eruption began. The 6 and 2 year olds were at home with their neighbors. He said he plans to make an announcement on the radio to help find them.

The children were also picking up nearby rubble, looking for scraps of metal and burnt pots.

The sesame skyline brightened on Saturday when lava erupted from a crevice on the side of the volcano.

As in 2002, thousands of people gathered their belongings and fled to the nearby Rwandan border, fearing that lava could swallow parts of the city and kill hundreds.

Over 3,500 people crossed the border on the night of the eruption in heavy traffic.

Many sesame inhabitants are accustomed to fleeing. Armed groups have terrorized the area for over 25 years, and many people in the city have moved there after violence struck a nearby village.

Unlike 2002, few casualties have been reported so far.

Some of the children who escaped from the lava flow and were separated from their parents are staying at a center run by the Red Cross of Sesame.

Red Cross workers and some senior government officials are trying to reunite their families.

Benisse, four, has been separated from his family since the eruption.

When that happened, his mother was selling fish at the market, and he fled with other children from his neighborhood.

He walked most of the night to another town, Sake, 23 km (14 miles) from Goma, where he slept by the side of the road.

“I ran away with my friends, but I don’t even know where they are now. I’m alone here,” Benisse told Gilbert Ramazani, who works in the government’s social affairs department.

Desperate mothers are looking for children to move from center to center to see if they have been found.

And some found their children.

At the time of the eruption, 32-year-old Sifa Omni was selling food.

She hurried home, but found that her two children had escaped.

“I went everywhere looking for them. I also went to the morgue in the hospital. They showed me the bodies of the dead children,” she said, her four-year-old daughter Elea. Said while hugging.

“I’m very happy to find them here.”

All photos by Olivia Acland.

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