Indian peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo played a crucial role in the evacuation of civilians and United Nations personnel from North Kivu’s capital Goma after a volcano erupted there over the weekend, officials said Sunday.

A brigade of the Indian Army is involved in peacekeeping operations in the African country and is headquartered in Goma.

Mount Nyiragongo, located near Goma, erupted on Saturday night causing panic among the local communities. Only a small stream of lava flowed towards Goma with most of it flowing towards Rwanda.

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 sprang into action to ensure there is no threat to UN and other assets and also made sure that real-time updates on the volcanic eruption were passed on to United Nations.

The timely information by Indian peacekeepers helped in bringing orderly civilian evacuation, an official in New Delhi familiar with the matter said.

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

There are more than 2,000 Indian troops with the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the Congo. It is seen as dangerous and notoriously unstable country.

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. Other countries contributing troops to the UN mission in Congo are Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Nepal, Brazil, Malawi, Ghana, Uruguay, and Tanzania.

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