Congo Democratic Republic is devastated as 127 people are feared dead in a boat sinking tragedy. The President of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi has declared Friday a day of mourning as 114 people are still missing days after a boat with people capsized on Lake Kivu and killed 13 people.
The boat which was involved in the accident was a motorized boat locally known as ‘pirogue’. The boat had left the city of Goma on Lake Kivu northern shore, but capsized on heading to the town of Kalehe to the west when the incident occurred that Monday night.
Recalling how the incident happened, a survivor identified as Alice Uwezo Ruchiga told AFP news agency that she was sitting in the bow when a big wave hit the pirogue, which capsized and they fell into the water. With some three others, they held to a plastic mattress until they were rescued by some fishermen. Another survivor Isaac Ngeriyo, added that a woman and her child could not find a place on the mattress and they drowned. Among the survivors was one passenger whose family members where unfortunate, AFP was informed.
13 are confirmed dead, and as many as 114 are still missing
“In my family we lost Delphine (26) and Rebecca (15), their bodies have not been found yet,”
In DR Congo the river transportation is mostly used as the country is surrounded by freshwater thus boat mishaps are common in its rivers and lakes. Most of these river accidents are caused by overloading of passengers and cargo on rickety vessels, no life jackets available and coupled with the fact that many Congolese don't know how to swim. Few of the recorded incidents in the past are:
- 27 people who were reported drowned in a boat sinking in September last year,
- 26 last July,
- Another 50 last May
- 40 people in April
Some of the boats sank while the people were fleeing fighting as the country is struggling with local conflicts and the government’s influence in some remote areas is weak.
Frequent conflicts and bad roads lead many to brave the river on overloaded boats
On Tuesday, 16th of April an honorary provincial minister, Apollinaire Bulindi who is also an engineer, urged Congo President Tshisekedi to fulfill campaign promises during the past election to repair the Goma-Bukavu highway the disrepair of which had led to some of the drowning in the country.
Meanwhile, On Wednesday, the presidency had made a tweet which he later deleted that 150 people were missing in the latest boat disaster. In a statement from the office of Tshisekedi, the Congo presidency has also decided to make it mandatory for all passengers on the lake, the site of regular drowning, to have lifejackets.
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