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At least 27 drown as river boat capsizes in DR Congo

world Updated: Sep 19, 2018 23:58 IST
AFP
AFP
Authorities were searching for the boat’s owner, who fled following the accident.
Authorities were searching for the boat’s owner, who fled following the accident.(AFP File Photo)
         

At least 27 people drowned and others were presumed dead after a riverboat capsized on a tributary of the Congo River in northern DR Congo, a local official said Wednesday.

“We pulled 27 bodies from the Mongala river after the craft capsized overnight,” provincial governor Alpha Belo-Ngwata told AFP.

“Other bodies are still underwater. Rescue teams are trying to recover them,” he added, unable to provide a precise toll.

Junior Mozobo, who survived the accident, told AFP that some 60 people, mainly traders and students, had been aboard the canoe-shaped craft dubbed HB Espoir (hope).

Mozobo blamed operators for overloading a boat that was already in poor condition and then setting sail after dark.

Authorities were searching for the boat’s owner, who fled following the accident some 1,500 kilometres northeast of the capital Kinshasa.

Known locally as baleinieres (literally, whalers), the boats resemble motorised canoes and can measure from 50 to 100 feet long and two to six metres wide.

They can carry up to 140 tonnes of goods and dozens of passengers, who are not provided with life jackets even though many typically cannot swim.

In May, 50 people died in a similar accident on another river in the northwest of the sprawling former Belgian colony.

First Published: Sep 19, 2018 21:09 IST

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