At least 18 people have drowned in western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after a riverboat carrying more than 300 passengers split in two, a local police official said on Tuesday.
Most of those on the boat were local officials, according to Martin Nakweti, acting police chief in Oshwe territory of Mai-Ndombe province, where the incident occurred. Police and divers searched the Lukenie River for the missing passengers, while authorities awaited more information to help them assess the causes of the boat's failure.
Residents of Congo's riverside communities use wooden ferries called "balanieres" to get from their homes to their workplaces in areas where there are often no roads.
Shipwrecks are also common in remote parts of the country, notably in Mai-Ndombe, a province full of lakes and rivers located 400 km east of the capital Kinshasa.
According to the local assembly, David Bisaka, a local official, drowned in April after his boat sank on the Mfimi River in the same province.
According to Bovic Ngampenga, president of a civil society organization in Oshwe, the ferry that sank on Tuesday was overloaded, in poor condition, and "should no longer be in service".