KALE, Congo (AP) – The death toll from floods and landslides in eastern Congo has risen to more than 200, and many people are still missing, according to local authorities in South Kivu province.
Thomas Pakeng, district manager of Kalehi, the hardest-hit district, told reporters at the site on Saturday that 203 bodies had been recovered so far, but efforts to find more bodies were continuing.
In the village of Nyamukobe, where hundreds of homes were swept away by water, rescue workers and survivors dug through the rubble on Saturday, looking for more bodies in the mud.
Villagers wept as they gathered around some of the bodies found so far, which lay in the grass covered with a muddy cloth near a post for rescue workers.
Grieving survivor Anuarit Zikugwa said she lost her entire family, including her in-laws, as well as many of her neighbours. “The whole village has been turned into a wasteland. There are only stones left and we can’t even locate our land once,” she said.
Michael Ntamana, a rescue worker helping to search for and bury the dead, said villagers were trying to identify and collect the bodies of loved ones who had been found so far. He said some of the bodies that had drifted in from hilltop villages were buried in the leaves. “It’s really sad because we have nothing else here,” he said.
Rivers broke their banks in villages in Kalehe province near the shores of Lake Kivu on Thursday. The authorities stated that dozens of wounded. One survivor told the Associated Press that the floods came so quickly that it took everyone by surprise.
South Kivu Governor Theo Ngwabidji visited the area to see the damage for himself. He posted on his Twitter account that the provincial government had sent medical supplies, shelter and food.
The rains disrupted several main roads leading to the affected area, hampering relief efforts.
President Felix Tshisekedi declared a national day of mourning on Monday to honor 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 brought misery to thousands in East Africa, and parts of Uganda and Kenya have also seen torrential rains.
Floods and landslides in Rwanda, which borders Congo, killed 129 people earlier this week.
Local government official Bakeng told the Associated Press, “This is the fourth time that such damage has been caused by the same rivers. It won’t be 10 years without them causing serious damage.”
Jean-Yves Camali in Kinshasa contributed to this story.
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