251 Congolese killed in `deadliest` Lake Albert boat disaster: DRC
Kinshasa: At least 251 Congolese refugees drowned in the weekend sinking of a crowded boat on Lake Albert, the government in Kinshasa confirmed on Thursday, declaring three days of national mourning.
It was the "deadliest shipwreck" in the country`s history, the government said.
The boat was travelling from Uganda, which sits across the lake from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and was transporting around 300 people who were returning home from refugee camps.
"It is with deep sorrow that we confirm to the nation the death of 251 of our compatriots who had boarded the boat from the Ugandan side of Lake Albert," government spokesman Lambert Mende told reporters.
President Joseph Kabila proclaimed three days of public mourning starting on Thursday "to show solidarity and compassion with the entire Congolese nation", Mende said.
The boat was transporting refugees who had fled fighting between the DR Congo military and ADF rebels, and were returning home on their own initiative.
"These men and women, along with their children," had decided to leave the camp at Kyangwali because of the "poor quality of the welcome to which they were subjected," said Mende.
"They have unfortunately not followed the traditional method of repatriation, a method that involves the host country, in this case Uganda, the country of origin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the UN High Commission for Refugees," he said.
UNHCR said the vessel was one of two boats leaving Hoima district on the eastern shore of the lake on Saturday.
The body count has mounted rapidly in recent days. Initial reports on Saturday said 20 had died, but this increased to 98 by Monday and 107 on Tuesday, including 57 children.
Navigation on central Africa`s Great Lakes can be as perilous as sailing in high seas when the weather is rough. Accidents often lead to very high casualty tolls, partly because of a lack of life-jackets and also because relatively few people know how to swim.
Saturday`s disaster happened just days after Kinshasa launched a campaign to enforce the wearing of life jackets aboard all boats on the nation`s many waterways.
Uganda remains a haven for refugees, according to UNHCR. While most of the new arrivals have fled conflict in South Sudan, the country is still home to 175,000 Congolese among a total of almost 329,000 refugees registered at the end of February.
The agency has in the past three months registered "a rise in the number of Congolese refugees spontaneously returning to the DRC", after the Congolese army last November won a major military victory over rebels of the Movement of March 23 (M23) in the troubled east.
Congolese people who decide to go home either cross Lake Albert or travel by road, the UNHCR added, saying a campaign to warn refugees of the risks of taking to the water was already in hand.
Download the all new Zee News app for Android and iOS to stay up to date with latest headlines and news stories in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, Business and much more from India and around the world.
More from India
More from World
More from Sports
More from Entertaiment
- DNA: Exiled Kashmiri Pandits share their heart wrenching stories
- Basic ideals of Constitution are in danger: Sonia Gandhi
- PM Modi greets nation on occasion of first Constitution Day
- Manjula Vaghela's journey: From rag picker to head of a firm with Rs 1 cr turnover!
- Indian Army faces shortage of field firing ranges in J&K
- Woman commits suicide after heated discussion with husband over Aamir Khan's intolerance remark
- Intolerance issue: Those attacking me are only proving my point, says Aamir Khan – Read full statement
- Eat smart to slow down ageing and increase longevity!
- Setback to Kejriwal-led AAP as MLA Akhilesh Tripathi arrested in riot case
- 10 interesting facts about Constitution which every Indian must know