Death toll from eastern DR Congo floods rises to nearly 400

The death toll from floods and landslides in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has risen to nearly 400, an administrative official said Sunday.

At least 394 bodies have been recovered after last week’s floods, said Thomas Bakenga, administrator of Kalehe territory where the affected villages are located.

He had announced a toll of at least 203 people on Saturday.

Heavy rainfall in the Kalehe region of South Kivu province on Thursday caused rivers to overflow, causing landslides that engulfed the villages of Bushushu and Nyamukubi.

The hillside also gave way at Nyamukubi, where the weekly market was held on Thursday, Bakenga has previously said.

“We now have more than 390 bodies recovered,” he told AFP on Sunday by telephone.

He added that 142 bodies were discovered at Bushushu, 132 at Nyamukubi and 120 had been found floating on Lake Kivu near Idjwi, an island in the middle of the large volcanic lake.

“Since Thursday we’ve been finding bodies every minute and we are burying them,” Bakenga said.

National mourning

The provincial government has sent a boat filled with beans, flour and other food, tarpaulins and medicine, he said.

In all, several villages were submerged, many houses washed away, and fields devastated, when rivers in the region burst their banks due to the heavy rains.

A day of national mourning will be observed on Monday, with flags lowered at half-mast “in memory of the lost compatriots”, the government has announced.

Eastern DR Congo’s disaster came two days after floods killed at least 131 people and destroyed thousands of homes in neighbouring Rwanda, which lies on the other side of Lake Kivu.

On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres offered his condolences to the victims of the “catastrophic floods” in Rwanda and DR Congo.

“This is yet another illustration of accelerating climate change and its disastrous impact on countries that have done nothing to contribute to global warming,” he said during a visit to Burundi.

Experts say extreme weather events are happening with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change.

Last month, a landslide provoked by torrential downpours killed around 20 people in North Kivu, a province that neighbours South Kivu. 

DR Congo, a vast nation the size of continental western Europe, is one of the poorest countries in the world, riddled by corruption and conflict in its east. 

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