DR Congo: Floods kill more than 170 in eastern DR Congo

BUKAVU: More than 170 people died after heavy rains and floods in the east DR Congoin South Kivu province, officials said on Friday, after torrential downpours killed dozens of people in neighboring Rwanda.
South Kivu Governor Theo Ngwabije said dozens of people were missing in the Kalehe area, west of Lake Kivu and near the Rwandan border, where flooding also washed away hundreds of homes.
“We have around 176 dead,” he said during a visit to the affected area.
“This report is provisional,” he said. “We also have around 100 people missing.”
Archimedes Karhebwathe deputy administrator of Kalehe, had previously indicated to AFP that a hundred people had died, according to a provisional assessment.
A day of national mourning will be observed on Monday with flags lowered “in memory of missing compatriots”, the government announced on Friday evening.
Several villages in Kalehe were submerged when rivers burst their banks after heavy rains, he said.
Karhebwa said the floods washed away hundreds of homes and also “surprised vendors and their customers in the markets”.
Innocent Mupenda, a local civil society figure, said a downpour started on Thursday afternoon, before “the river washed away the villagers”.
His mother and 11 children died in the flood, Mupenda said.
Vital Muhini, an elected official from Kalehe, also told a local radio station that the floods had caused “devastating human and material damage”. He put the death toll at around 150.
AFP was unable to independently confirm the death toll, with reported figures varying.
A member of a rescue team deployed on Friday afternoon, who requested anonymity, said “the search continues through the rubble”.
The deadly floods in eastern Congo follow the death of at least 127 people this week after torrential rains in neighboring Rwanda, which is across Lake Kivu.
‘Send an SOS’
Karhebwa, the deputy administrator of Kalehe, said the rivers overflowed and caused disastrous flooding on four occasions.
The area had been studied and local residents asked to leave, he explained.
Deforestation in the region and climate change have contributed to the flooding problem, according to Karhebwa.
“We are issuing an SOS to people of good will and for urgent humanitarian aid,” he said.
Heavy downpours during the rainy season in Central Africa regularly lead to flooding and landslides.
But experts say extreme weather events in Africa are occurring with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change.
Last month, a landslide caused by torrential downpours killed around 20 people in North Kivu, a neighboring province of South Kivu.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, a vast country the size of mainland Western Europe, is one of the poorest countries in the world, plagued by corruption and conflict in the east.


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