At least 50 dead, 10 000 homeless after flash floods hit Boma, DR Congo

At least 50 dead, 10 000 homeless after flash floods hit Boma, DR Congo

Severe flash flooding hit the city of Boma, Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, leaving at least 50 people dead and 10 000 homeless, authorities said Thursday, December 29, 2016.

Heavy rains started on December 23 and drastically increased on the 24th and 25th, causing the Kalamu River, which flows into the River Congo, to burst its banks in the city of Boma on Tuesday, December 27, 2016. River waters hit a peak of 2 m (6.5 feet) above their usual level, provincial authorities said.

Brazzaville Airport, DR Congo precipitation December 15 - 29, 2016

The resulting flash floods killed at least 50 people, washing some of the victims across the border into Angola, destroyed at least 1 000 homes and left 10 000 people homeless. The flooding lasted at least two hours before the waters receded.

"The damage is very serious," Therese-Louise Mambu, health minister for Kongo Central province, told Reuters. "We continue to look for other bodies."

Boma was covered in up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) of mud, locals said and described tragic scenes as the waters rushed into their houses.

"I lost my two children, carried off by the waters, which rose up to three meters like a tsunami. I could only watch them as they were washed away," Faustin Lutete, a government employee, said. Fisherman Jean-Marie Kola said he just had time to "run far away, as our house was showing signs of fragility. It collapsed later."

Boma, DR Congo - Flash flood on December 27, 2016

Flash flood aftermath in Boma, DR Congo on December 27, 2016. Image credit:  The Government of Kongo Central Province

Boma, DR Congo - Flash flood on December 27, 2016

Flash flood aftermath in Boma, DR Congo on December 27, 2016. Image credit: The Government of Kongo Central Province​

Boma, DR Congo - Flash flood on December 27, 2016

Flash flood aftermath in Boma, DR Congo on December 27, 2016. Image credit: The Government of Kongo Central Province​

Boma, DR Congo - Flash flood on December 27, 2016

Flash flood aftermath in Boma, DR Congo on December 27, 2016. Image credit: The Government of Kongo Central Province​

Boma, DR Congo - Flash flood on December 27, 2016

Flash flood aftermath in Boma, DR Congo on December 27, 2016. Image credit: The Government of Kongo Central Province​

Boma, DR Congo - Flash flood on December 27, 2016

Flash flood aftermath in Boma, DR Congo on December 27, 2016. Image credit: The Government of Kongo Central Province

Boma is located near the mouth of the River Congo, around 470 km (300 miles) southwest of the capital Kinshasa, and is home to between 150 000 and 200 000 people. The Kalamu River runs through the middle of the city.

"This is a cyclical phenomenon which happens every 10 years. It last happened in January 2015 but with climate change it's now happened again in December 2016," Jacques Mbadu, the governor of Kongo Central province, said.

The authorities blamed the flooding on poor waste management and unregulated construction along rivers, including the Kalamu, Sindi, Lovo and Lukunga.

In December 2016, floods that hit capital Kinshasa left more than 30 people dead and 20 000 families homeless, most of them in the capital's slums, where residents were left to battle with their bare hands through noxious mud, slime and fecal matter, the AFP said.

Congolese towns and cities are typically built up in a haphazard fashion and government services to deal with natural disasters are practically non-existent, the agency added.

Featured image credit: Flash flood aftermath in Boma, DR Congo on December 27, 2016. Image credit: The Government of Kongo Central Province

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