Following the Lake Mai-Ndombe disaster in DRC where 45 people died and 200 people are still missing, provincial governor Antoine Masamba has announced that old boats are to be banned from the lake. The ban will affect wooden passenger boats older than 5 years.
Water transport is a popular means of transport in DRC. The total length of waterways is estimated at 15,000 km including the Congo River, its tributaries, and unconnected lakes. Most waterway routes do not operate to regular schedules. It is common for an operator to moor a barge at a riverside town and collect freight and passengers over a period of weeks before hiring a river tug to tow or push the barge to its destination.
Wooden boats are commonly used across waterways. Unfortunately, DRC sees frequent boat accidents. This latest incident took place on Saturday evening in Mai-Ndombe province in western DRC. It involved a type of flat-bottomed wooden vessel known as a balieniere or whaler. The boat was carrying 400 passengers, according to the governor. The boat's manifest shows it was carrying 130 people. The boat's limit is 80 people. Most of the passengers on board were teachers going to collect their salaries. Mayor of Inongo, Simon Mboo Wemba, said the captain of the vessel had been arrested.
It is not clear when the ban will come into effect or how many vessels will be affected. Last month, at least 167 people died in two boat accidents on Lake Kivu. Following these accidents, president Felix Tshisekedi decreed passengers must wear life jackets. It is unclear if the passengers aboard the ill-fated boat on Lake Mai-Ndombe were wearing life jackets.
Header Image Credit: ETurbo News