At least nine people have been killed after a large passenger ferry sank in the Congo River in Kinshasa on Friday, with a further 100 missing, possibly dead, say authorities.
According to reports, the ferry was carrying approximately 300 passengers, luggage and other cargo at the time of the incident, and many people may still be missing. The accident occurred on the Congo River in the Maluku region of Kinshasa in the western region of the Democratic Republic of Congo late on Friday afternoon.
According to the mayor of Maluku, Mr. Papy Epiana, nine bodies have been found and 197 survivors have been accounted for, meaning that many of the estimated 300 passengers are still missing. It is unclear as to the exact number of passengers on the ferry, as investigators have been unable to find a passenger manifesto. Epiano said that a more accurate estimate of the number of people on board are expected to be announced within the next few days.
The circumstances surrounding the accident are not clear, however survivals state that they heard a loud ‘bang’ and felt a shudder as the boat appeared to collide with a stationary object in the river. The boat then started taking on water and began to tilt, eventually sinking completely below the surface of the river. Many of the individuals on the boat could not swim, and clung to pieces of the boat before they were rescued by other vessels in the area.
This accident comes just two days after another ship sank in the Kasai River in the province of Bandundu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in which more than 140 people are missing, feared dead. According to the DRC’s information minister, Lambert Mende, the accident on the Kasai River was caused by overloading, and 80 people have already been confirmed dead. There were an estimated 180 people on the boat, which was registered to carry 50 passengers. The Kasai river is a tributary of the Congo River, the DRC’s main transport link.
Shipping accidents such as this are common in central and west Africa, where poor road infrastructures and a lack of reliable land based public transport make boat travel the only feasible mode of transport. There is a lack of safety regulations and law enforcement with regard to passengers vessels in the Congo, resulting in many vessels that are in poor condition and overloading is common.