How Nyiragongo eruption sucked life out of Rubavu

Thursday June 10 2021
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Cracks in buildings and roads in Rubavu after the tremors that followed the eruption of Nyiragongo. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

By Ange Iliza

Rubavu town, the centre of trade between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo and Rwanda, and home to the second busiest land border globally, was almost unrecognizable after Nyiragongo volcano erupted in lava and caused tremors that scared away its residents and businesses.

Businesses were the most hit by the aftermath of the eruption. Elyse Jyambere is a helmsman at "Lake Side" on the shores of Lake Kivu. He has been working at Lake Kivu for the last 10 years, his survival completely relies on his job. When he spoke to Rwanda Today on Friday, he had only had two clients in a week.

“I make as much as Rwf25,000 per ride and I could get at least five customers per day before the eruption. In the week of eruption, I had only two customers," he said

When the tremors got stronger mid last week, Jyambere’s boss and his colleagues were among the first to flee Rubavu to Kigali.

By Thursday, public buses were flowing from Rubavu with families and business people migrating to Rwanda. “We had to bring vacant buses from Kigali to respond to the demand in Rubavu. It lasted for three days but now they are coming back,” a ticket agent in Rubavu bus station said on Saturday.

Rubavu market, the biggest in town, was half empty on Friday afternoon, usually the busiest day. Zainabu (surname withheld), a vendor at Rubavu market, said at least half of the people she knew have fled to Kigali. “Friday is usually the busiest day here.


But now the market is almost empty. Some are planning to return and others are just uncertain how things will evolve,” she narrated.

The aftershock has also halted the supply of goods from Goma to Rubavu, prompting a hike in prices of certain goods, such as vegetables.

Between Wednesday and Saturday, some of the most active neighbourhoods with shops, recreational places, restaurants and offices were all closed.

Some hotels that remained open also reported very low traffic throughout the week.

The seismic tremors have caused closure of essential services in Rubavu town since Wednesday May 24. The affected include hospitals, part of the town’s main market, MTN service centres and banking services.