Forty-six people have been killed, scores are missing and hundreds of family homes have been washed away by a landslide in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
So far found 16 bodies have been found, the head of the UN mission in the Congo said today.
The disaster, on the slopes of Nyrangongo volcano at Kibumba, in North Kivu province where the army is trying to oust Rwandan Hutu rebels, was triggered when rivers overflowed at the volcanic peak after heavy rains on Sunday.
The mountain, which overlooks the provincial capital Goma, is one of two active volcanoes that have regularly erupted and spewed lava in recent years, killing scores of people.
United Nations peace keepers yesterday rushed 4x4s and other relief into the area. “The search for the missing is continuing.” Said a spokesperson for the UN Mission for DR Congo (MONUC). “Meanwhile, MONUC is urgently tending to the displaced people, who are staying close to their villages, and providing food.”
Altogether about 5,000 people have been affected, according to the Congolese press. And many more, who went to shelter in a nearby village, are still at risk as heavy rains continue.
"The mudflow destroyed part of a village, sending people fleeing to a nearby village," said Narciso Rosa-Berlanga, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Goma. "These people sleep outside at night out of fear, and are living at risk. If the rains continue, they will be affected," he told the United Nations news service, IRIN.
"The aid agencies are responding by providing food, non-food items and temporary shelter," he added.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has been at the centre of has been called Africa's world war. The five-year conflict pitted government forces, backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. North Kivu is one of the parts of the west African nation that have battled with insecurity for a long time because of the presence of various armed groups. But the situation had calmed in recent months.
"The landslide occurred when these people were in a recovery phase, since the [security] situation has improved, so it is a setback for them," Mr Rosa-Berlanga added.
In March, at least 300 people, including 100 children, died when landslides triggered by heavy rains buried three villages in neighbouring Uganda's eastern Bududa region. At least 2,000 people were forced out of their homes and entire fields of crops ruined.