More than 70 people have died in boat accidents in two weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a local administrative source said on Monday.
The accidents occurred between Oct. 3 and Oct. 16 this year, off the Lulonga River, in Basankusu territory in Equateur province.
The Lulonga River flows into the Congo River, the second longest river in Africa, after the Nile.
“A total of 73 bodies have been identified but there are many more missing,” lfodji Ngilima, an administrative official of Basankusu territory said.
The damaged boats are whaleboats, a type of large motorized wooden canoe that provides transport on most of the tributaries on the Congo River.
“All the capsized boats, four in total, occurred at night during the heavy rainy seasonal,” Ngilima said, recalling that navigation is prohibited on this river.
The last accident that killed around 40 occurred on the night of Oct.15, according to the official.
Two days earlier, two whaleboats from the same company collided and broke up. They had experienced an engine fire before they all sank into the water.
“The provisional toll is 18 bodies recovered, all children under 17, as well as several missing. Most of the passengers were young vacationers,” according to UN-run Radio Okapi.
In the absence of sufficient asphalt roads in the DRC, most people travel on the Congo River, its tributaries and lakes. Boat accidents often result in very heavy tolls, some are not reported because of the isolation of the places where they occur.
The accidents reported on the Lulonga River are mainly due to non-compliance with navigation standards, the poor condition of vessels and are often overloaded.