Responding to a devastating volcano eruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today dispatched a senior official to the region and pledged the world body's full support in coping with the disaster.
"The Secretary-General has learned with deep concern of the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," his spokesman, Fred Eckhard, told reporters in New York. "He notes that this severe natural disaster is occurring in an area that has already suffered from years of conflict."
Mr. Annan assured the Governments of the DRC and Rwanda, which also experienced lava flows, that he would put the UN's assets to "full use" in helping them to mitigate the disaster's consequences, the spokesman said. As part of that effort, the Secretary-General dispatched Ross Mountain, the Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator to oversee the UN response.
In addition, a flight from the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) will leave Kinshasa for Kigali, carrying 28 metric tonnes of emergency supplies to meet the immediate needs of some 300,000 people who have been displaced by the disaster.
Briefing reporters in New York, Steven Johnson, acting chief of the Humanitarian Emergency Branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said 3 or 4 lava flows from the volcano had caused some 100,000 people to flee into villages in the DRC, while some 200,000-300,000 had fled just over the border into Rwanda. "Goma town has been split completely in half, and one half totally destroyed - burned," he said.