by Joel LUMBALA
KINSHASA, DR Congo (AFP) – Around a hundred people died on Tuesday as the worst flooding in years hit DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa after an overnight downpour, state television said.
Key roads in central Kinshasa, a city of about 15 million people, were flooded for hours and a key supply route was cut off.
Around 100 people died in the floods, state television said when the government announced three days of national mourning.
Earlier, the city’s police chief, General Sylvano Kasongo, told AFP the preliminary death toll was at least 55, particularly on hillsides where there had been landslides.
An AFP reporter saw the bodies of nine members of the same family – including young children – who had died after their home in the Binza Delvaux neighborhood collapsed.
“We were woken up around 4:00 a.m. (0300 GMT) by water entering the house,” a relative said.
“We drained the water, thinking the danger was gone, and went back inside to sleep – we were soaked,” he said.
The family went back to bed and “shortly afterwards the wall collapsed”.
Kinshasa is located on the Congo River and has seen a huge influx of population in recent years.
Many dwellings are shacks built on flood-prone slopes, and the town suffers from inadequate drainage and sewerage.
A major landslide occurred in the hilly Mont Ngafula neighborhood, choking off National Highway 1, a key supply route linking the capital to Matadi, a port further down the Congo River and a key outlet to the Atlantic.
Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde told reporters at the scene that around 20 people died there when “houses were swept away”.
The search for survivors will continue, he said.
The motorway should reopen to small vehicles within the next day, but it could take “three or four days” for trucks, the prime minister said.
The streets in the posh government district of Gombe, which houses ministries and embassies and is usually spared the problems of other parts of Kinshasa, such as inadequate waste disposal and electricity supply, were also flooded.
– ‘Catastrophe’ –
In November 2019, around 40 people died in floods and landslides in Kinshasa.
Mont-Ngafula was one of the worst-hit areas, but a local resident said the flooding was even worse this time.
“We’ve never seen flooding of this magnitude here,” said Blanchard Mvubu, who lives in CPA Mushie’s Mont Ngafula neighborhood.
“I was sleeping and I could feel water in the house… it’s a disaster – we lost all our belongings in the house, nothing could be saved.”
He added: “People are building big houses and it’s clogging the drains. The water cannot move freely and that is what causes the flooding.”
Another man, who gave his name Freddy, said everything in his house was underwater – “shoes, food supplies, clothes. All is lost, there is nothing to save.”
Nearby, a young man charged passers-by 500 Congolese francs (24 US cents) to carry them on his back across the flooded street.
Another man, posing as a teacher, walked barefoot in the water, holding a pair of shoes in one hand and a plastic bag containing documents in the other.
“I have no other choice,” he said. “I have to give school children an exam.”
Landslides, triggered by heavy rainfall and poorly planned urban development, are not uncommon in Mont-Ngafula.
© Agence France-Presse