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Volcano Shadows Refugees Eruption Occurs In Area Rwandans Fled; Border Arrivals In Increasingly Poor Health

A volcano erupted in eastern Zaire on Sunday, spewing a plume of ash and lava into the air about 30 miles from the border crossing at Goma where Rwandan refugees are still straggling homeward.

A lava flow down the northwestern slope of 10,022-foot Nyamulagira was six miles long by evening, but there was no indication of an immediate threat to the refugees.

The U.N. refugee agency said it did not know whether any refugees would be affected by the eruption, but it is in the area where the Kahale and Kahindo camps were located.

Rwandan Hutu refugees fled from those camps more than a month ago to escape fighting between anti-government rebels and Zairian troops. Hundreds of thousands of the refugees have since returned home, 2 years after they fled to Zaire in fear of retribution for a Hutu-led massacre of minority Tutsis.

The flow of refugees slowed to a trickle Sunday, and only a few hundred arrived at the border. Aid workers said they believed most of the refugees in the immediate area have already made their way home.

In Goma, aid workers set up a field hospital for sick and exhausted refugees who have spent the last five weeks fleeing through the forest.

“The groups we’re getting now are worse and worse, and we know the further we go into the forest they will continue to be worse,” said Dr. Marc Gastellu Etchegorry, head of Doctors Without Borders in Goma.

He said his group had treated more than 140 cholera cases in the last two weeks.