Severe storms lashed Congo
Friday, causing deadly flash flooding three weeks after
a volcanic eruption incinerated more than half the city
The town of Uvira -- some 120 miles south of Goma -- was
severely damaged. Nearly 50 people were feared dead, and
more than 600 lost their homes. On Friday rescuers were
attempting to remove huge rocks that had crashed down
over the town. Most local roads were blocked by debris.
The worst storms to hit Uvira in more than a decade
brought torrential rain and flash floods to a town that
lies on a narrow strip of land with a lake on one side
and hills with huge rocks on the other. Most people live
in earthen homes.
Government officials said they feared continued heavy
rains would cause even worse destruction.
Meanwhile members of Action by Churches Together (ACT),
a worldwide coalition of faith-based and related
agencies that respond to disasters, were responding to
last month's volcanic eruption that destroyed large
parts of Goma.
When Mount Nyiragongo erupted Jan. 17, it destroyed
water systems for miles around Goma. It also razed the
city's center -- its homes, schools, and health clinics.
The city's Baptist hospital -- said to have been the
best in town - was destroyed.
Then post-eruption earthquakes destroyed still more
structures in both Congo and Rwanda.
Many families barely escaped the lava flow when it
engulfed the town, leaving without taking anything with
them. Some 500,000 people fled Congo for Rwanda, with
most of them returning to their homes.
Lava destroyed many small villages in the Goma area.
Many people in remote villages waited weeks before
receiving any assistance, depending on rain for fresh
water. The threat of cholera still looms, and bean
fields and other crops are now buried under a hard bed
The Goma airport was partially destroyed, and many roads
were blocked. Lava now divides Goma into eastern and
western sections. Many primary income earners in
families lost their jobs.
Humanitarian organizations are working with local
officials to relocate and rebuild homes. Disaster
response leaders reported that most people are unwilling
to relocate themselves outside Goma, where local
authorities had proposed three relocation sites, one in
the former Rwandan refugee camp Mugungu.
The city of Goma had long provided a safe haven to many
people displaced by war. Internal conflict in the
country has caused widespread poverty even before the
volcanic eruption, earthquakes, and storms.
Many families are still staying in churches that have
been set up as temporary shelters.
The Bureau Oecumenique d'Appui au Development (BOAD) and
Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC) -- both ACT members --
are forming a local team that will work with civil
officials and local people on the issue of relocation.
The team will also consider what kind of houses should
be built in the volcanic area. Local authorities are not
allowing people to start building permanent structures
on top of the lava. Buildings that sustained minor
damage are being fixed with sheets of corrugated iron
ACT member Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) is working with
the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Oxfam, and
other agencies. An NCA five-person team provided 20
temporary storage tanks that were installed and are
supplying water to about 18,000 people daily.
In cooperation with Lutheran World Federation (LWF), NCA
is transporting water to the tanks using two trucks.
NCA has also been working with the French organization
Solidarite in areas just outside Goma. Four water
storage tanks were installed about 7 miles outside Goma,
close to the Rwandan border. They serve the local
population as well about 3,000 displaced people who fled
last month's lava flow.
NCA is working with local authorities to provide
equipment to help rebuild the water network.
BOAD and ECC have identified three locations in Goma
(Katoyi, Faraga, and Rutoboko) where food will be
distributed to some 6,000 families. Their efforts are
also reaching families in villages outside Goma.
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) is expected
to provide some of the food.
Local churches continue to distribute food they receive
from other churches abroad. But many people are
struggling to find a balanced diet and many are
subsisting on beans.
LWF, BOAD, and other ACT members are also providing
families with non-food items such as plastic sheeting,
jerry cans, blankets, and kitchen sets. ECC is working
with other ACT-affiliated agencies to assess health-
related needs in the area.
Within the first few days after the eruption, LWF
distributed kitchen sets to 700 families in Ruhengeri,
as well as 35 rolls of plastic sheeting and 560 blankets
to displaced people from Goma. LWF also distributed
firewood that was provided by ACT member Christian Aid.
LWF continues to run warehouses in the towns of
Ruhengeri and Gisenyi in Rwanda. The warehouses store
all food to be used by the WFP for Goma.
Eight locations have been identified where temporary
schools can be built for children whose schools were
destroyed. Some 24,000 children cannot attend school in
Goma. LWF, Christian Aid, ECC, other international
agencies, and local authorities will jointly coordinate
the school rehabilitations. Classes will resume in Goma
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