At least 27 people dead, more than 70 missing after boat capsizes

MBANDAKA, CONGO – A tragic boat capsizing in the northwest of Congo has resulted in the loss of at least 27 lives, with over 70 individuals still missing. The incident unfolded late Friday in the city of Mbandaka in Equateur Province, as a locally made boat, carrying more than 100 passengers along the Congo River to Bolomba, met disaster.

Deputy provincial governor, Taylor Nganzi, reported that 27 bodies of victims have been recovered from the water and transported to Mbandaka’s general hospital morgue. An investigation into the accident’s cause has been initiated.

Contradictory reports on the death toll have emerged, with the New Civil Society of Congo, a local civil society group, claiming that 49 people lost their lives due to engine failure leading to the capsizing. “Everything started to sink,” said Jean-Pierre Wangela, president of the group. Such discrepancies in death tolls are unfortunately common in incidents of this nature in Congo.

Rescue efforts have been underway, with volunteers joining official rescue teams in the search for survivors and the retrieval of bodies. Families have been left to mourn their loved ones who were among the victims.

Boat accidents are frequent occurrences on the Congo River and the nation’s lakes due to the widespread use of makeshift boats, often overloaded. In the northwest of the country, where good roads are scarce and travel options limited, rivers are a crucial means of transportation. Despite a government ban on nighttime travel across the country to prevent accidents, many continue to defy this directive.