More than 50 dead, scores missing after boat drowns on Congo River

At least 50 people have died and dozens others are to be believed missing after a makeshift vessel capsized on the Congo River, according to officials.

Fifty-one bodies had been from the boat that sank during the night of Monday to Tuesday, and almost 70 are believed to be missing, Nestor Magbado, a spokesman for the governor of the northwestern province of Mongala, told reporters.

He said there were 39 survivors.

With no manifest of the passengers on board, the number of those missing is an estimate based on the capacity of the boat, he said.

The vessel was nine traditional wooden canoes, known as pirogues, all tied together, Magbado said.

He added that the accident may have been caused by “overcrowding aggravated by bad weather” during the night.

The magnitude of the scale of the disaster was only reported by provincial authorities on Saturday.

Magbado said the Mongala authorities had informed authorities in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, of the sinking just after it occurred, but had waited for more information about the number of casualties.

Search and rescue operations are continuing, but hopes are fading of finding more survivors, he said.

Provincial authorities have declared three days of mourning from Monday.

Boat drownings are common in the region vastly due to overloaded with passengers and cargo. Most of the passengers travelling on vessels also often do not wear life jackets.

Earlier in February a vessel carrying 700 people capsized on the Congo River near the village of Longola Ekoti, in Mai-Ndombe province killing at least 60 people.

In January, at least three people, two children and one woman, drowned after a passenger boat sank in Lake Kivu.

In May 2020, 10 people, including an eight-year-old girl, died after the leisure boat they were travelling on capsized in Lake Kivu. In July 2010, more than 135 people died after a boat capsized in the western province of Bandundu.