Kasai River disaster
The Kasai River disaster occurred on 29 July 2010 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), when an overloaded passenger ferry capsized on the Kasai River in Bandundu province, east of Kinshasa. At least 80 people are confirmed dead, with other death tolls putting this figure closer to 140.
Due to the country's lack of roads outside major cities, ferries and river transport are a major component of transport in DRC. The disaster occurred on the Kasai River, a tributary of the Congo River, in the western Bandundu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, east of the capital, Kinshasa. The boat was travelling to Kinshasa from the town of Mushie in Bandundu's western Kwilu district, which is 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the city of Bandundu, that province's capital.
The government stated that boat owners in the DRC were frequently negligent, and adherence to insurance rules and maintenance was often lax. Fatal maritime accidents are frequent in the DRC and are often blamed on overloading. Several decades of conflict in the region has destroyed the country's infrastructure, leaving aircraft and boats as the best or only option for travel. According to Agence France-Presse, boating accidents are caused by the poor state of navigable channel signage, the lack of signal lights on vessels, and inexperienced pilots, while most vessels fail to meet basic safety standards. The country, which is comparable in size to the whole of Western Europe, has just a few hundred kilometres of paved roads outside the cities.
According to the government, the boat capsized after hitting a rock. The boat was badly overloaded according to police, and many passengers were unable to swim. Police initially attributed the cause of the capsize to rough weather, although the government also said that low water levels on the river due to the dry season may have been the cause, leading to a higher chance of boats snagging or hitting submerged sandbanks.
Date and location
Conflicting accounts have been given for the date and exact location of the accident, with Information Minister Lambert Mende Omalanga stating on 29 July 2010 that it took place on Tuesday 27 July 2010 at Mangutuka river post, about 120 kilometres (75 mi) from Kinshasa; he earlier stated it took place on Wednesday, 300 kilometres (190 mi) from Kinshasa. Another account from Mende stated it occurred near Maluku district, about 80 miles (130 km) from Kinshasa. Several secondary reports have said it occurred on Wednesday, 28 July.
A provisional police death toll stated 138 people died. The Transport Ministry toll was 80 confirmed dead and 76 known survivors, although both figures were thought likely to rise with searches for survivors, and due to the presence of many unrecorded passengers on the boat. The official manifest listed "about 180 passengers" according to the government. According to one report, the boat was carrying "about 200 passengers" in all. An unnamed official in the local governor's office said that 140 people were dead. Another unnamed source stated that just two children were believed to have survived the disaster.
- Manson, Katrina (29 July 2010). "Up to 138 killed in DR Congo boat accident". Reuters. Retrieved 30 July 2010.
- "DR Congo boat sinking 'kills 140'". BBC News. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2010.
- Youant, David (30 July 2010). "At least 140 dead in DR Congo river disaster". The Age. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 30 July 2010.
- Citera, Patrice (29 July 2010). "At least 80 dead after Congo boat disaster". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 30 July 2010.
- River Congo: Nation's lifeline, BBC, 29 July 2010