Floods in DR Congo leave nearly 400 dead

Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains that lashed eastern Democratic Republic of Congo left nearly 400 dead, according to a balance sheet released Sunday, which may still rise as new bodies are found.

“We have found more than 390 bodies,” Thomas Bakenga, administrator of the Kalehe region, where the affected localities are located, told AFP, on the shores of Lake Kivu which is on the border with Rwanda.

Heavy rains have been lashing the Kalehe region in South Kivu province since Thursday, causing rivers to overflow and landslides to sweep through the villages of Bushushu and Nyamukubi.

The death toll is rising fast. The day before, Bakenga had announced that there were at least 203 dead. “Since Thursday we have been finding bodies every minute and burying them,” he added.

In Nyamukubi, a hillside, where the weekly market took place on Thursday, also collapsed, Bakenga said.

“It looks like the end of the world. I am looking for my parents and my children,” Gentille Ndagijimana, 27, wailed in tears.

The young woman lost her two children, her two sisters and her parents. Her husband was injured and is in the hospital.

“I no longer have a family and I no longer have a field. Now I have to look for a place to sleep,” she said.

At least 132 bodies were found in this village, the regional administrator said. Another 142 in Bushushu and 120 floating in Lake Kivu, near the island of Idjwi.

Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the largest countries in Africa and one of the poorest in the world, devastated by corruption and violence in the eastern areas.

– “National mourning” –

The victims lack everything. The provincial government sent a ship full of food, tarpaulins and medicines.

But the picture is still bleak. Entire villages are submerged, houses destroyed and fields devastated.

The central government decreed on Friday a day of national mourning for Monday.

Roger Bahavu, another of those affected in Nyamukubi, told AFP that he lost his entire family.

“I am a motorcyclist. I had returned from work, parked my motorcycle at home and went out to see my friends. When I came back, my house, my motorcycle and my family members were gone,” he recounted.

Isaac Habamungu, a local Red Cross staff said there are many dead bodies. “We are overwhelmed,” he warned.

“We believe that many bodies ended up in the lake (…) We are wondering how we are going to take care of it,” he added, explaining that they have no body bags and no funding for their activities.

The catastrophe came two days after other floods that left at least 131 dead and destroyed thousands of homes in neighboring Rwanda.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Saturday on a visit to Burundi that the disaster is “a new sign of the acceleration of climate change and its dramatic consequences for countries that are not responsible for the warming” of the planet.

Experts say extreme weather events are occurring with greater frequency and intensity due to climate change.

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