At least four people died and another was injured Thursday in the collapse of a school under construction in Bukavu, a large city in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to local authorities and witnesses.
Around 12:30 p.m. GMT, the Omega La Merveille school complex collapsed, causing the death of at least four people, including the director of the primary school, an educational adviser and a teacher, said Patience Bengheya, mayor of the commune of Bagira in Bukavu, where the drama happened.
Dieudonné Kalabarha, a painter who worked on a construction site near the school, witnessed the scene: "The masons were digging while they (the teaching team) were in a meeting. The masons noticed a problem and they fled. Suddenly, everything collapsed, (...) the slab buried them".
This worker recounts having "pulled three men from the rubble". They were already dead. Typson Idumbo, spokesman for the provincial government of South Kivu - of which Bukavu is the capital -, dismisses the seismic cause saying that "there was no earthquake".
Eastern DRC, located on one of the fault lines of the East African Rift, is subject to strong seismic activity, which occasionally leads to building collapses and volcanic eruptions. The latest took place in 2021 in Goma, a hundred kilometers north of Bukavu, and left several dozen dead.
A team was dispatched to the field to "begin the first investigations", said spokesman Typson Idumbo.
"The people suspected are the builders themselves and the owner because they should not have authorized the construction of a septic tank inside" the building, burgomaster Patience Bengheya got carried away.
“Imagine if we were in the period when the children were inside … it would be more serious than now”, launches the spokesperson. But "God made sure that it happened during the holidays", concludes the mayor.
Landslides, collapses and spectacular fires frequently mourn the working-class neighborhoods of Bukavu. More than thirty people have died in similar conditions since the beginning of the year.
Founded at the very beginning of the 20th century on the southern shore of Lake Kivu by Belgian settlers, Bukavu, formerly Costermansville, was designed for around 100,000 inhabitants. They would be around 2 million today, a figure difficult to confirm for lack of a census.