Rescue teams are actively searching for the whereabouts of 167 individuals who remain unaccounted for following the tragic capsizing of a boat in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday, as confirmed by authorities.
In the aftermath of the vessel’s sinking in the Congo River, over 40 casualties have been recovered, and 189 survivors were successfully rescued.
The boat was overloaded with more than 300 passengers and cargo, said a civil society group involved in rescue and recovery efforts.
Boats are a common mode of transport in DR Congo because of the lack of roads.
However, boat accidents are frequent due to overloading, a lack of maintenance and travelling at night.
Many passengers also do not wear life jackets.
Officials say that the boat was sailing at night in breach of safety regulations.
Prominent DR Congo opposition leader and presidential candidate in December’s election, Moise Katumbi, said he was saddened by “this tragedy”.
He said it was a “direct consequence” of the government “which tolerates the overnight navigation of dilapidated and overloaded boats”.
UN-linked Radio Okapi reports that the provincial government of Equateur, where the accident happened, said it would provide psychological support for children who were injured in the accident and lost their parents.
The radio station said that more than 40 bodies had been so far recovered but the local civil society organisation, Conscious Generation, said that the number was 50.
A survivor told Radio Okapi that the boat, which had left the city of Mbandaka for the Bolomba area in the north-western Equateur province, stalled and lost balance due to overcrowding.
As the crew endeavored to restore balance to the vessel, it unfortunately capsized, taking both passengers and cargo with it into the depths before sinking, as recounted by a survivor.
In a compassionate response, on Sunday, the vice-governor of Equateur province provided body bags and coffins to facilitate the dignified burials of a portion of the victims.