At least 31 people have died and hundreds of children are missing after Mount Nyiragongo erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the weekend.
However, the government says it expects the number of casualties to increase as first responders search for missing people.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) children were lost amid the chaos as residents fled the nearby city of Goma on Saturday.
More than 150 children have been separated from their families and more than 170 children are feared to be missing, the agency said.
The volcano began erupting at 6 p.m. local time Saturday and finally slowed down at 4 a.m. Sunday, according to a statement from the government. The lava stopped just 1.2 kilometers (approximately 0.7 miles) from Goma’s gates, it said.
Thousands of people crossed over to neighbouring Rwanda to seek refuge after the eruption. But the border was closed, so they went back to Goma and headed to an area north of the city.
“Everywhere in the city you see people walking with their belongings, their children and even their goats and whatever they could grab. Most of them are just sitting by the road waiting to be able to go back any time soon,” Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) spokesperson, Peyre-Costa said.
But hundreds could return to find damaged homes and dangerous shortages of water and electricity, UNICEF said.