Scores feared dead in DR Congo flood disaster

Scores of people were feared dead Tuesday in terrible floods that hit the strife-torn east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 700 homes, a school and a church were reportedly destroyed around Bushushu village in South Kivu province after heavy rain set off landslides, with some victims said to have been swept into Lake Kivu.

"We identified 30 or so bodies on Monday but early on Tuesday afternoon I saw 65 bodies with my own eyes," said Crispin Mokili, vice-president of the New Dynamic civil society group.

The heavy rain that has been pounding the area since the weekend made it difficult to recover the dead.

The head of the village, Juvenal Rushisha, told AFP: "Some families say they have lost between four and 15 members, who have either been washed away in torrents towards Lake Kivu or been swallowed up in mudslides."

Although there was no official confirmation of the death toll, the head of the UN`s MONUSCO mission in the war-ravaged region, Martin Kobler, said he was "deeply concerned by the nunber of victims and the scale of the damage".

He said the UN would do "everything possible to come to the aid of the victims of this disaster".

Seventy-five Red Cross rescue workers were dispatched to help volunteers at the scene but were struggling to cope with the devastation.

"We have been using axes, hoes and hammers to try to get bodies out of the rubble. But it is work that needs specialist equipment given that having dug to two metres (more than six feet), we still haven`t reached bodies," said spokesman Jacques Bisimwa.

Two bridges were also washed away by the floods, further hampering rescuers.

Rushisha said so far only two bodies had been found in the village, 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of the regional capital Bukavu. "(However,) I know that we are going to find lots of bodies given that families keep coming to us to say they have people missing. I believe there may be as many as 200," he said.