At least 200 people have died and many more are missing after flash floods and landslides hit the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The heavy rainfall caused rivers to overflow on Thursday, inundating hundreds of homes in the territories of Bushushu and Nyamukubi in South Kivu province.
Rescue workers and survivors have been searching through the rubble and debris for bodies. According to Thomas Bakenge, administrator of the worst-hit territory of Kalehe, 203 bodies have been recovered so far, with more efforts underway. Scores of people have also been reported injured, with many being treated for fractures.
The flash floods caught many off guard, with one survivor reporting that the water rose so fast that it took everyone by surprise. The devastation has been widespread, with grieving survivor Anuarite Zikujuwa losing her entire family and many of her neighbors. “The whole village has been turned into a wasteland. There are only stones left and we can’t even tell where our land once was,” she said.
The relief efforts have been hampered by the heavy rainfall, which has made several main roads to the affected area almost impassable. Villagers have been trying to identify and collect the bodies of their loved ones found so far, with some bodies washed down from villages higher in the hills being buried shrouded in just the leaves of trees.
The heavy rains have brought misery to thousands in East Africa, with parts of Uganda and Kenya also experiencing heavy rainfall. Earlier this week, flooding and landslides in Rwanda, which borders Congo, left 129 people dead and destroyed over 5000 homes.
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has declared a national day of mourning on Monday to honor the victims. The disaster highlights the urgent need for improved infrastructure and preparedness in the face of extreme weather events, particularly in vulnerable communities.