Dozens drown as boat capsizes in Democratic Republic of Congo

Tragedy occurs amid worsening humanitarian crisis in the central African country

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The Independent Online

At least 26 people have drowned after a boat capsized in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The accident happened on Lake Tanganyika on the south eastern border of the DRC.

The vessel was travelling north from the town of Kalemie in mineral-rich Katanga province to Uvira in the conflict-ravaged South Kivu province.

The vessel got into trouble in the early hours of Friday, according to the news agency AFP.

Katanga’s transport minister Laurent Kahozi Sumba said around 221 passengers were rescued and that the boat appeared to be overloaded.

The boat was carrying both passengers and goods for sale.

The lake on which the accident happened also borders Tanzania, Burundi and Zambia.

The tragedy comes as aid agencies warn that they are struggling to contain a growing humanitarian disaster in the country.

There are 600,000 displaced people in the mining heartland of Katanga, up from 55,000 three years ago.

The increase is largely due to violence from armed groups, including secessionists who want the mineral-rich state of Katanga to become an independent country.

The constant stream of refugees from violence in the “Triangle of Death” north of the country’s mining areas is putting significant pressure on humanitarian assistance in the country.

Moustapha Soumaré, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator in Congo, told the Reuters news agency that a crisis was developing in the country.

“Suddenly, we turn to a zone where there is a major crisis in the process of developing but where there are not enough humanitarian actors,” he said.