DR Congo boat accident: At least 40 dead, 167 missing

Source: BBC

Rescue workers are searching for 167 people still missing after their boat capsized in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday, officials have said.

More than 40 bodies have been recovered while 189 survivors were rescued after the boat sank in the Congo River.

The boat was overloaded with more than 300 passengers and cargo, said a civil society group involved in rescue and recovery efforts.

Boats are a common mode of transport in DR Congo because of the lack of roads.

However, boat accidents are frequent due to overloading, a lack of maintenance and travelling at night.

Many passengers also do not wear life jackets.

Officials say that the boat was sailing at night in breach of safety regulations.

Prominent DR Congo opposition leader and presidential candidate in December’s election, Moise Katumbi, said he was saddened by “this tragedy”.

He said it was a “direct consequence” of the government “which tolerates the overnight navigation of dilapidated and overloaded boats”.

UN-linked Radio Okapi reports that the provincial government of Equateur, where the accident happened, said it would provide psychological support for children who were injured in the accident and lost their parents.

The radio station said that more than 40 bodies had been so far recovered but the local civil society organisation, Conscious Generation, said that the number was 50.

A survivor told Radio Okapi that the boat, which had left the city of Mbandaka for the Bolomba area in the north-western Equateur province, stalled and lost balance due to overcrowding.

While the crew attempted to rebalance the boat, it overturned with the passengers and cargo before sinking, the survivor added.

On Sunday, the vice-governor of Equateur province provided body bags and coffins for the burials of some of the victims.

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