The sinking of a boat called a "whaler" on Friday on the Congo River left at least 47 dead and an unknown number missing, the Minister of Transport of the Democratic Republic of Congo said Monday evening.
The previous report communicated on Sunday by the authorities of the province of Equateur (north-west) reported at least 28 dead and dozens missing.
According to information collected early Monday afternoon by the river commissioner on site, "we had 47 bodies recovered", declared the Minister of Transport, Marc Ekila , during a press briefing with his counterpart from the Communication and government spokesperson, Patrick Muyaya .
“As the boat was in an irregular situation, we were unable to have the manifest to determine exactly the number of passengers who were on board,” he added.
The accident was due to "overloading", according to the minister, who also recalled that "wooden boats" were not authorized to sail at night.
The "whaler" was leaving Mbandaka for the territory of Bolomba , in the province of Équateur, when it capsized during the night from Friday to Saturday.
“We have asked the provincial authorities to set up a commission of inquiry,” added the Minister of Transport.
A large country in Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo has very few passable roads and travel is often done on lakes as well as on the Congo River and its tributaries.
Shipwrecks are frequent there, with often heavy tolls.
According to the report of Friday's council of ministers, President Félix Tshisekedi asked the government to "do everything possible to avoid shipwrecks (...) the main causes of which are in particular the overload of passengers and goods, the poor marking of waterways, night navigation as well as non-compliance of boats with regulations.
According to him, "an action plan" is needed so that the Congo River plays a "driving role in economic development" as a waterway.
President Félix Tshisekedi, in power since early 2019, is a candidate for re-election next December,