DRC boat sinking sparks riots over safety, overloading

Shipping disasters occur frequently, leaving many dead on the lakes and rivers of the DRC due to overcrowding on old and poorly maintained vessels. (Reuters)

Shipping disasters occur frequently, leaving many dead on the lakes and rivers of the DRC due to overcrowding on old and poorly maintained vessels. (Reuters)

At least 30 people died when an overcrowded boat hit a rock and sank on the Congo river, sparking riots in which angry youths on the rampage set fire to public buildings, officials said on Friday.

“There are 105 survivors and we have pulled up 30 bodies. The search is continuing,” provincial government spokesperson Monulphe Bosso told Agence France-Presse.

The accident occurred when an overcrowded boat hit a rock and sank on Monday near the village of Yakusu II some 35km north of the eastern provincial capital of Kisangani.

“At its departure, in Kisangani, the boat embarked 39 people according to the register handed over to the authorities. Perhaps they were trying to cheat river surveillance services ... as they took more passengers on board along the way,” Bosso said.

“They embarked many more people ... the boat was carrying a lot of goods and was also crowded with people. They hit a rock” and it sank, he added.

Not rigorous enough
A government delegation was heading on Friday for the town of Isangi, the vessel’s scheduled destination, where rioting youngsters on Thursday went on the rampage.

“They set fire to the offices of the river police and the naval force. They’re youngsters angered by the loss of their relatives, they say people [the authorities] are not rigorous enough” about making sure safety conditions are complied with, Bosso added.

Shipping disasters occur frequently, leaving many dead on the lakes and rivers of the Democratic Republic of Congo due to overcrowding on old and poorly maintained vessels, a lack of life-jackets and the fact that many people do not know how to swim.

At least 129 people died in December when an overcrowded boat went down on Lake Tanganyika, and in March a shipwreck on Lake Albert left 210 dead and missing. – AFP

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