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More than 200 dead and many more missing after Congo floods


KALEHE, Congo — The death toll from flash floods and landslides in eastern Congo has exceeded 200, with many more people still missing, according to local authorities in South Kivu province.

Thomas Bakenge, administrator of Kalehe, the hardest-hit territory, told reporters at the scene on Saturday that 203 bodies had been recovered so far, but efforts to find more were continuing.

In the village of Nyamukubi, where hundreds of homes were swept away, rescuers and survivors dug through the ruins on Saturday looking for more bodies in the mud.

Villagers wept as they gathered around some of the bodies recovered so far, which lay on the grass covered in muddy cloth near an aid station.

Grieving survivor Anuarite Zikujuwa said she lost her entire family, including her in-laws, as well as many of her neighbours. “The whole village has been turned into a wasteland. There are only stones left and we cannot even tell where our land once was,” she said.

Michake Ntamana, a rescue worker helping search and bury the dead, said villagers were trying to identify and recover the bodies of loved ones found so far. He said some bodies taken from villages higher up in the hills were buried just wrapped in the leaves of trees. “It’s really sad because we don’t have anything else here,” he said.

On Thursday, rivers burst their banks in villages in Kalehe territory, near the shores of Lake Kivu. Authorities reported dozens of people injured. A survivor told AP that the flash floods came so fast that they took everyone by surprise.

South Kivu Governor Théo Ngwabidje traveled to the area to see the destruction for himself. He posted on his Twitter account that the provincial government had sent medical supplies, shelter and food.

Several main roads leading to the affected area were rendered impassable by the rains, hampering relief efforts.

President Félix Tshisekedi declared Monday a national day of mourning in honor of the victims, and the central government is sending a crisis management team to South Kivu to support the provincial government.

Heavy rains in recent days have brought misery to thousands of people in East Africa, with parts of Uganda and Kenya also experiencing heavy rains.

Floods and landslides in Rwanda, which borders Congo, claimed 129 lives earlier this week.

Bakenge, a local government official, told AP: “This is the fourth time such damage has been caused by the same rivers. Not 10 years go by without them causing enormous damage.


Jean Yves Kamale in Kinshasa contributed to this story.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.