Up to 140 feared dead as boat sinks in DR Congo

Friday, July 30, 2010

Kasai river from above
Image: NASA.
Bandundu province is in the west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Image: Morwen / Wikipedia.

As many as 140 people are feared dead after a boat sank on the Kasai River, a tributary of the Congo River, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The central African country, of equivalent size to western Europe, has very poor road infrastructure, meaning that many people travel on boats, which are often overloaded. The boat involved in the accident was travelling to the capital city, Kinshasa, from the town of Mushie. The accident occurred in the province of Bandundu, approximately 30 km (20 miles) from the provincial capital, where officials reportedly held a crisis meeting to deal with the incident.

The boat is believed to have been overweight, carrying at least 180 passengers as well as goods. It is the dry season in the Congo, so the river is shallow. The sinking was reportedly the result of hitting a mud bank, causing the vessel to capsize.

Lambert Mende, the Congolese information minister, said in a statement that at least 80 people had been confirmed dead while 76 were thought to have survived. However, the local police later announced a provisional death toll of 138, and possibly more.

Safety standards are poor in the Democratic Republic, with overcrowding common on boats, which often do not carry lifejackets and are forced to navigate poorly marked waterways, meaning that fatal accidents are not uncommon in the country.


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