Congo volcanic eruption: Indian peacekeepers play key role in saving civilians, UN assets

Written By: Sidhant Sibal WION
New Delhi, India Published: May 23, 2021, 03:15 PM(IST)

Congo's Mount Nyiragongo eruption (file photo) Photograph:( WION )

Story highlights

Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano which started spewing lava at 6.30 pm local time on Saturday sparking panic in nearby Goma town with a population of 600,000

Indian Army personnel working with the UN Peacekeeping Forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) have played a key role in reaching out to the local population and saving UN assets amid a major volcanic eruption from Mount Nyiragongo.

Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano which started spewing lava at 6.30 pm local time on Saturday sparking panic in nearby Goma town with a population of 600,000.

The Indian Army personnel are part of the MONUSCO or United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Indian Brigade Headquarters located adjacent to the Goma airfield. Within hours of the eruption, the Indian Brigade jumped into action to ensure there is no threat to UN and national assets and also made sure real-time updates on the volcanic eruption were passed on to United Nations.

The timely information by Indian peacekeepers, also known as "blue helmets" helped in bringing orderly civilian evacuation.  

While the Indian Brigade HQ has been thinned out, with 70 per cent with camp being sent to Himbi Company Operating Base (COB) for safety, minimum strength continues to hold on to camp to ensure it continues to be in operation. 

"Actions by the Indian contingent in the face of imminent danger has facilitated the smooth evacuation and protection of civilians and other UN personnel in Goma", Indian Army officials aware of the development on the ground told WION. 

Indian Army has a brigade consisting of two Infantry Battalion groups, one level-III hospital, and sizeable strength of officers as military observers and staff officers in the mission. The total strength stands at around over 2,200. MONUSCO has 14,000 military personnel with India, its largest troop-contributing country. Other countries that are contributing troops to the UN mission in Congo are Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Nepal, Brazil, Malawi, Ghana, Uruguay, and Tanzania.

MONUSCO took over from an earlier UN peacekeeping operation – the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) – on 1 July 2010. The new mission has been authorised to use all necessary means to carry out the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and support the central African country's government.

According to the latest updates, most of the lava has flown towards neighbouring Rwanda, with a small quantity flowing towards Goma city. The United Nations in an internal security alert had informed the various country contingents as of now no immediate evacuation is required. But a majority of the country contingents including aviation contingents have been evacuated. 

As of now, according to the latest ground reports, lava is unlikely to reach Goma. Meanwhile, the area is witnessing earthquakes of very low intensity intermittently.

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