MBANDAKA, CONGO – Tragedy struck Mbandaka city in Equateur Province when a locally constructed boat overturned on the Congo River on Friday. Deputy provincial governor, Taylor Nganzi, confirmed that the mishap led to the death of at least 27 individuals, while over 70 remain unaccounted for.
The vessel, carrying in excess of 100 passengers, was en route to the town of Bolomba when the incident occurred. Nganzi mentioned that 27 victims have been recovered and sent to Mbandaka’s general hospital morgue. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to determine the cause of this unfortunate event.
However, local civil society group, The New Civil Society of Congo, cited engine malfunction as the possible reason behind the accident, claiming that the casualty count stands at 49. Jean-Pierre Wangela, the group’s president, described the harrowing moment: “Everything started to sink.” Given the situation in Congo, inconsistencies in casualty numbers are not unusual, making it challenging to immediately verify the exact figures.
Local volunteers have rallied alongside professional rescuers, searching both for survivors and retrieving the deceased. Grieving families anxiously await updates about their kin. “Our team, in collaboration with river services and the affected families, is overseeing the search operations,” Nganzi remarked.
Navigational mishaps are all too familiar on the Congo River and surrounding lakes. This is primarily due to the widespread usage of makeshift, often overcrowded boats. The northwest populace predominantly relies on these rivers for commuting, given the paucity of reliable roads and the affordability of water travel. In an effort to curb such tragedies, the Congolese government had previously prohibited nocturnal voyages across the country, but many continue to flout this rule.