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Nearly 100 dead in DR Congo boat accident

As many as 250 people may have been on vessel that capsized on Lake Albert after leaving Uganda, UN refugee agency says.

Last updated: 24 Mar 2014 18:06
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At least 98 people have died after a boat capsized at the weekend on Lake Albert, which lies between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said.

"Based on information UNHCR has received so far from the authorities and refugees, 41 people were rescued and 98 bodies recovered" after Saturday's disaster, the refugee agency said in a statement on Monday.

"As many as 250 people may have been aboard the boat," added the UNHCR, which reported that the vessel had been transporting Congolese refugees returning to their homeland from Uganda.

The boat that sank was "one of two that left from Hoima district on the eastern (Ugandan) side of the lake on Saturday morning, carrying refugees who had been living at Kyangwali refugee settlement but were heading back home to eastern DRC of their own accord," the UNHCR said.

Survivors were taken to the Bundibugyo district, to the southwest of the lake, where they have been taken under the wing of the Ugandan state and the UNHCR and its partner agencies, according to the statement.

Relatives have come from the DRC in a bid to identify family members at the district hospital.

Safety campaign

The incident happened just days after the DRC authorities launched a campaign to enforce the wearing of life-jackets aboard all boats on the large nation's many waterways.

The UNHCR said that Uganda remains a haven for refugees.

While most of the newly arrived ones have fled conflict in South Sudan, the country is still home to 175,000 Congolese among a total number of almost 329,000 refugees registered at the end of February.

Congolese people who decide to go home either cross Lake Albert, or travel by road, the UNHCR added, stating that a campaign to warn refugees of the risks of taking to the water was already in hand.

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Source:
AFP
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