KALEHÉ, Congo (AP) — Flash floods and landslides in eastern Congo have killed more than 200 people and many are still missing, local officials in South Kivu province say.
Thomas Bagenge, administrator of the worst-hit area of Kalehe, told reporters on Saturday that 203 bodies had been recovered so far, but efforts to find others were continuing.
In Nyamukubi village, where hundreds of homes were swept away, rescue workers and survivors dug through the rubble on Saturday, searching for more bodies in the mud.
Villagers wailed around the few bodies that had been recovered so far, lying on grass covered in mud cloths near the rescue workers’ booth.
A grieving survivor, Anuwarite Jigujua, said she had lost her entire family and neighbours, including her mother-in-law. “The entire village has become a wasteland. Only stones remain and we cannot even tell where our land was once,” he said.
Michake Ntaman, a rescue worker helping to find and bury the dead, said villagers are trying to identify and collect the bodies of loved ones that have been found so far. He said that some bodies from villages high up in the hills are buried under tree leaves. “It’s really sad because we don’t have anything else,” he said.
Rivers broke their banks in villages in Kalehe region near the shores of Lake Kivu on Thursday. Officials said many people were injured. One survivor told the AP that the flash flood came so fast that everyone was surprised.
South Kivu Governor Theo Nkwapitje visited the area. On his Twitter account, the provincial government has sent medical, shelter and food items.
Many major roads leading to the rain-affected areas are impassable, hampering relief efforts.
President Felix Tshisekedi declared a national day of mourning on Monday to pay respects to the victims, and the central government is sending a crisis management team to South Kivu to support the provincial government.
Heavy rains in recent days have caused misery for thousands in East Africa, with heavy rains also lashing parts of Uganda and Kenya.
At least 129 people were killed earlier this week in floods and landslides in Rwanda, which borders Congo.
Local government official Bakenge told AP, “This is the fourth time such damage has been caused by the same rivers. 10 years don’t go by without them causing massive damage.
Jean-Yves Gamale in Kinshasa contributed to this story.
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