At least 28 bodies have been recovered from the Congo River, while dozens more people were reported missing after a boat sank in northwest of the DRC, provincial authorities said.
“Dozens of people are still missing and the search is continuing,” Chrispin Mputu, interior minister for the Equateur province, told AFP, confirming the death toll on Sunday.
The total number of passengers had not yet been established with the official list having “disappeared”, Mputu said in a telephone interview.
One civil society organisation put the toll much higher.
“Our teams counted up to 49 bodies yesterday, and this morning, another was recovered from the water, bringing the toll to 50 dead,” Joseph Boyoko Lokondo, a leader of the organisation “Generation consiente (“Conscious Generation”), told AFP.
“Up to now, around 100 people are reported missing,” he said, adding that “between 20 to 30 survivors (were) still at the port, they have lost everything”.
The boat “was carrying more than 200 passengers, goods and construction materials” for a government programme, according to Boyoko.
Radio Okapi reported that the boat had got into difficult “due to overloading”.
Moise Katumbi, opposition leader and presidential candidate in the upcoming December polls, said he was saddened by “this tragedy”, which he described as “the direct consequence” of a government “which tolerates the overnight navigation of dilapidated and overloaded boats”.
The vast Central African nation has few practicable roads, so travel often occurs on lakes, the DRC River and its tributaries, where shipwrecks are frequent and the toll often heavy.
In 2019, a shipwreck on Lake Kivu claimed around 100 lives in the east of the country. President Felix Tshisekedi, who visited the scene at the time, called for life jackets to be worn by all passengers, a measure which is rarely respected, while also promising new boats which have yet to be delivered.