Bodies are still being recovered from two villages in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo where floods killed more than 400 people last week in one of the deadliest disasters in the country’s recent history.
Many dazed survivors were mourning multiple family members killed in the flash floods that swept away homes and buried the villages of Bushushu and Nyamukubi, both in South Kivu province, in muck and debris. Thousands of people have been displaced by the floods, which also swept away roads.
“Over there in the mud, that’s where our house was,” 22-year-old Alliance Mufanzara said, pointing at an empty plot of churned earth. “We lost six people in our family. In our house, five children died and our mother, who is the sixth.”
She, her younger brother and their father are the only survivors.
“We’re scared because our whole family is finished,” she said. “We have nothing.”
Humanitarian workers have spent days recovering mud-caked bodies from the wrecked villages in Kalehe territory, where days of torrential rain triggered landslides and caused rivers to burst their banks on Thursday.
“It is an unprecedented humanitarian disaster,” government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya said.
Kinshasa declared Monday as a national day of mourning. Flags flew at half-staff in memory of the victims.
The large number of casualties has meant workers have had to bury victims in mass graves, according to videos posted online.
“We left everything behind,” said Bushushu resident Bahati Kabanga, 32, who managed to rescue his only child but lost his sister, aunt and nephews.
“We felt a tremor while it was raining and decided to flee after seeing houses collapse in the distance,” he said.
More than 400 people are confirmed dead, South Kivu Governor Theo Ngwabidje Kasi said on Monday as the toll more than doubled Friday.
Civil society sources on the ground expect the number of dead to rise further as bodies are still floating in rivers and buried under debris. Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for, according to the United Nations.