Thousands are still missing as survivors of the Congo floods search for their relatives

Calais, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Reuters) – The death toll from floods in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) rose on Tuesday as aid workers found more bodies amid the muddy destruction and residents succumbed to their injuries in an ill-equipped local clinic. .

Floods, in a remote mountainous region of South Kivu province, swept away the riverside villages of Nyamukube and Boshocho five days ago, destroying homes, ruining crops and killing more than 400 people.

It was the deadliest natural disaster in the modern history of the Congo.

Survivor Paul Serushago was still searching for the bodies of two members of his family on Tuesday, digging with a shovel through the mud and debris that came halfway through the door of their Nyamukobe home.

“We’ve been looking for them since Friday and haven’t found them yet,” he said, taking a short break from the hard work.

The scale of the devastation has highlighted people’s vulnerability to climate change in many parts of Africa, where poor urban planning and poor infrastructure mean that communities often cannot withstand increasing bouts of extreme weather.

A Reuters reporter at the scene said entire neighborhoods in Nyamukobe had been trampled by boulders and the stench of corpses was rising from the ground. Homeless people crowd into the few public buildings left intact, with poor sanitation.

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The Red Cross believes that more than 8,000 people need help. Aid efforts have been hampered by a lack of access and resources.

“We are unable to deal with so many dead bodies urgently as needed. We are searching for the bodies with spades and hands,” said John Kachinswe Kibikenji, a spokesman for the Red Cross in South Kivu province.

Local official Thomas Bakenga Zirimabagabo said more than 5,500 people were still missing.

Government officials brought blankets, food and some coffins to Nyamukobe on Tuesday. They donated the money to a local clinic where three people died on Tuesday, and gave about $1,100 each to 200 affected families.

But the delegation did not participate in the burials as planned or visit Boshoshu where the death toll is believed to be higher because it was market day when the flood hit.

The residents are terrified. Many wept for lost loved ones, crops were trampled and homes destroyed. Some asked the government to rehouse them away from the area where water flowed from the fertile hillsides, swelling the river that ran through their homes.

Aid workers laid the bodies in mass graves dug over the weekend, prompting complaints from civil society groups and prompting the government to promise aid for more dignified burials.

(Reporting by AJ Sabetti) Writing by Sofia Christensen Editing by Christina Fincher

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