DJAFFAR AL KATANTY
VILLAGERS searched for bodies in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lake Kivu on Friday after a passenger boat capsized the day before, leaving dozens feared dead.
Fifteen bodies had been found and 34 people were still missing by Friday afternoon, according to a local chief, a civil society leader and survivors of the wreck. The provincial governor provided a lower toll of eight dead and 20 missing.
Villages along the lake in Congo’s South Kivu province are isolated by lack of roads, and boats are homemade and often overloaded. The boat that sank was an old wooden pirogue that went village to village taking people to market.
It was only supposed to hold 50 people, but sank with 157 onboard, according to the driver.
“We are on the lake looking for the bodies of our loved ones who drowned in Lake Kivu. They are our relatives, our fathers, our mothers, young men and women and even children,” said Heri Nyarukanyi, who lost three family members in the wreck.
“It was while arriving at Nyatshibingu, after adding more passengers and sailing some 25 metres, that the canoe split in two and many died,” he said.
The remains of the boat, filled with water, floated near the village of Nyatshibingu’s grassy shore.
“I feel sad, I have a lot of pain because I haven’t found my daughter’s body yet. I will keep searching until tomorrow,” said Safari Kagunjo, a 63-year-old pastor.
Deadly boat accidents are common in Congo, which has few tarred roads across its vast, forested territory and where safety regulations are poorly enforced.
Dozens are feared to have drowned in similar accidents on Lake Kivu in January and last June.