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Eighty dead in Congo boat disaster

AT LEAST 80 people are now presumed dead after a boat accident in Democratic Republic of Congo, said Gyna Bafala, provincial secretary of the Congolese Red Cross.

A private boat was travelling down a tributary of the Congo River near Ingende in Equateur province on Tuesday when it collided with a convoy of small wooden boats, Bafala said from Mbandaka, the provincial capital.

None of the boats had lights, he said.

The wooden boats “were filled with great numbers of people and merchandise,” Bafala said. Equateur’s minister of health sent officials to investigate the accident, he said.

At least 115 people survived the crash, Lambert Mende, Congo’s minister of information, said in an emailed statement. The Transport Ministry has outlawed boats from travelling at night, the statement said.

In early May, DR Congo held a three-day national mourning over more than 100 victims who perished in separate boat wreckages on the Kasai River and on Lake Kivu.

Bad weather, poor conditions of boats and overloading are among the main causes of wreckages frequently reported in DR Congo in recent years.

Statistics from the Congolese Ministry of Transports and Communication showed that more than 2,000 people lost their lives in accidents on the River Congo, other rivers and lakes in 2009 alone.

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