Moment people run for their lives as volcano erupts spewing lava towards town

Terrifying footage has shown thousands of people fleeing for their lives after a mammoth volcano erupted to send lava plummeting towards their town.

Mount Nyiragongo, an 11,385ft-high volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo, erupted on Saturday evening (May 22) to send fountains of lava into the night sky.

A thick red cloud blanketed the nearby town of Goma, with a population of two million, and lava has been filmed engulfing buildings on its outskirts.

Terrifying footage shared to Twitter shows the apocalyptic scenes as thousands of residents ran down the streets away from the spewing volcano.

One clip shows a gridlocked street as the spewing volcano erupts in the background while another shows a huge crowd running towards the border of Rwanda to safety.

Crowds were seen with mattresses and other belongings as they made a run for it, with some opting to find higher ground.

Thankfully, the trail of lava is believed to have halted a few hundred meters from the edge of the city.

"Local authorities who have been monitoring the eruption overnight report that the lava flow has lost intensity," government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said on Twitter on Sunday (May 23).

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Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukondo activated an evacuation plan for the city after the eruption, although many chose to flee even before it was announced.

Panic spread quickly in Goma after people saw the eruption.

"We are panicked because we have just seen the entire city covered by a light that is not electricity or lamps," said John Kilosho. "We don't know what to do. We don't even know how to behave. There is no information."

Others fled to the city centre from villages and neighbourhoods threatened by lava on the northern outskirts.

"We looked at the sky and saw the red colour of the volcano," said Richard Hazika Diouf from the Majengo neighbourhood. "We have fled to seek shelter in town."

But their attempts to escape were hampered after lava crossed a main road out of Goma, cutting it off from cities to the north. Traffic was in gridlock in most places and power was also cut off in the city.

It is not yet known the material damage or if anyone has died.

Rwandan authorities said about 3,000 people had officially crossed from Goma. The country's state media said they would be accommodated in schools and places of worship.

Nyiragongo is one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in the world.

It last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and leaving 120,000 homeless.

The volcano’s deadliest eruption occurred in 1977, when more than 600 people lost their lives.

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