DRC police probe boat sinking

2010-07-30 12:42

Nairobi - Local police were on Friday probing the cause of a boat accident in the Democratic Republic of Congo that left at least 138 people dead.

The accident took place on Wednesday on the Kasai River, in the western province of Bandundu, when an overloaded ferry taking passengers to the capital Kinshasa capsized, local police official Jolly Limengo told Radio Okapi.

Such accidents are relatively common in the sprawling Central African nation, where the lack of roads forces many to cram onto the ferries that ply the Congo River and its tributaries.

There were conflicting reports about the cause of the accident.

Limengo said that the overloaded craft was hit by strong winds, while Information Minister Lambert Mende told the BBC the boat hit a mud bank in low water levels.

It was still not clear how many people the boat was carrying or how many people died. Some reports suggested the boat was carrying as many as 180 people. The death toll of 138 is only provisional, according to Limengo.

The police official said an inquiry had been opened into the accident, although there was no information on when the findings would be released.