37 people die in fresh DR Congo boat mishap

Marine police rescue 3 in Badagry boat mishap
Illustrative picture. PHOTO CREDIT: CMSBS

No fewer than 37 bodies have been recovered after another boat sinking in the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said Tuesday, a week after a vessel capsized with nearly 130 people on board.

16 survivors were found near the spot where the boat sunk on a river in the country’s east on April 9, acting governor Papy Omeonga Tchopa of Maniema province told AFP on Tuesday.

He said the motorised boat capsized near the village of Katalama, 120 kilometres (74 miles) from the provincial capital Kindu on the Kindu-Kibombo-Kasongo part of the river — a stretch that officially is not navigable.

Tchopa added that the suspected causes included “a drunk skipper, travelling at night and overloading.”

“The skipper is on the run. He had already been banned because of previous violations,” said Tchopa.

Exactly a week earlier, a boat went down on Lake Kivu with some 130 people on board. Dozens are still officially missing.

This incident prompted President Felix Tshisekedi to declare a day of mourning last Friday and decided to make it mandatory for boat passengers to have lifebuoys.

River transport is one of the most used in DR Congo with its numerous waterways. Boat mishaps are common, typically caused by overloading of passengers and cargo.

Tolls are often high because there are no life jackets and many Congolese do not know how to swim.

Twenty-seven people were reported drowned in a boat sinking in September last year, 26 last July, another 50 last May, and 40 people in April whose boats sank while they fled the fighting.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country, DR Congo is struggling with local conflicts, and in remote areas the control of the central government in Kinshasa is weak.