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At least 145 people feared dead in DRC boat tragedy

At least 145 passengers are missing and feared dead after a motorised boat overloaded with goods and animals sank at night on a river in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC], authorities said.

About 55 people survived the disaster, officials said on Thursday. 

The boat had been travelling to neighbouring Republic of Congo when it capsized in the Lulonga River late on Tuesday near the town of Basankusu.

Jean-Pierre Wangela, the president of civil society groups in the area, told journalists that at least 145 people were missing. 

He blamed overloading for the boat’s demise, but said that locals have few other options. “There were roughly 200 people on board.”

“There’s no other means of transport currently in our province and here in the territory of Basankusu,” he said.

Boat sinkings causing dozens of fatalities are all too common in remote parts of DRC, where travel by road is at times impossible. 

Many watercraft are overloaded with goods and people who don’t know how to swim. 

Rescue operations are extremely limited in remote parts of the African country.

In October, more than 40 people died on the Congo River in Equateur province under similar circumstances.

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