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DR Congo tremor raises volcano fears

An earthquake on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda has razed buildings in the city of Goma and stoked fears a nearby volcano will erupt again three days after dozens of people were killed and 17 villages destroyed by lava.

The quake, measured at 5.3 magnitude by the Rwandan Seismic Monitor, was the largest of over 100 tremors that have followed the eruption on Saturday of Congo’s Mount Nyiragongo volcano, one of the world’s most active and dangerous.

“We know that children were injured when a building collapsed on Tuesday just a few steps from the UNICEF office in Goma,” the UN children’s agency said.

The quake appeared to have destroyed several buildings in the city of two million and a witness said at least three people were pulled from the rubble and taken to hospital.

It struck at 11.03am, originating in Rugerero sector in western Rwanda, according to the Rwanda Seismic Monitor.

The city experienced 119 tremors on Monday but the intensity has started to decrease, said Kasereka Mahinda, scientific director at the Goma Volcano Observatory.

The earthquakes were caused by the tectonic plates seeking to recover their equilibrium after the eruption, a phenomenon seen after the eruptions in 2002 and 1977.

“As soon as the rift recovers its balance, the tremors will stop,” he told Reuters.

Multiple cracks in the earth have emerged in Goma in the last day, some several hundred metres long that cut across the city’s main boulevards.

“The opening of these cracks on the roads like this is terrifying,” said Joseph Mapendo, a 32-year-old motorbike taxi driver.

“They should tell us if we should evacuate the town or if we can stay until the tremors are over.”

About 1000 houses were destroyed and more than 5000 people displaced by the eruption, the United Nations has said.

“According to the authorities, 32 people have died in incidents related to the eruption, including seven people killed by lava flow and five others asphyxiated by gases,” the UNHCR said.

The lava flow stopped a few hundred metres short of the city limits but wrecked 17 villages on the way, cut the principal electricity supply and blocked a major road, disrupting aid deliveries to one of the most food-insecure places in Africa.

The lava lake in the volcano’s crater appears to have refilled, raising fears of new fissures or another eruption, the UNHCR said.

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