Forty-one people died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) capital, as Kinshasa was battered by torrential rains and landslides, a top city official said on Tuesday.
“The loss, in terms of property and lives, is really huge,” Kinshasa Vice Governor Neron Mbungu told reporters, stressing that the death toll was preliminary.
The dead included a child who was electrocuted, he said, adding that three of the city’s 26 districts were particularly hard-hit.
Fatal floods are frequent in Kinshasa, Africa’s third-largest city with about 10 million people.
Experts have said that the city’s substandard building practices and large slum areas give little protection, leading to relatively high death tolls.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi visited one of the worst-affected areas at the end of the day and was heckled by a group of young people, who told him to “come and put the concrete back on our street.”
Mbungu said a bridge connecting the districts of Lemba and Ngaba had collapsed, and another was destroyed in the district of Kisenso.
Lemba Mayor Jean Nsaka said that a drainage ditch had given way under the pressure of the water and a road had been engulfed.
“More than 300 homes have been flooded. There are many houses which have been destroyed,” Nsaka said.
Flood deaths in Kinshasa are “linked to overpopulation [and] building on land that is vulnerable to flooding,” former Geographical Institute of Congo director-general Roger-Nestor Lubiku told reporters.
In January last year, about 50 people were killed in landslides and floods after houses collapsed following just one night of heavy rain in the capital.
Kinshasa’s population has doubled in less than two decades, with many people living in precarious dwellings.
“Eighty percent of the losses are caused by unauthorized construction,” Mbungu said of the latest flooding. “People are stubborn and do not respect the building regulations. Even if the state says they shouldn’t build there, they build — and you can see the consequences today.”
This year’s rainy season has claimed seven lives in floods and landslides in the far eastern South Kivu region, local official Seth Wenga said.
Thousands of people have been affected by flooding since late last month in the northwest.
The non-governmental agency Caritas on Saturday said that 10 people had died in North Ubangi Province in the far north and 180,000 people needed help.
Local officials in Equateur Province in the northwest on Saturday said that 25 people had died.
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