DRC floods leave 45 dead, thousands homeless

Floods in the middle of a cholera outbreak bring misery and death to densely packed Kinshasa.

Days of flooding rains have left parts of central Kinshasa in ruins.

At least 45 people have died in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and more than 5,000 have been made homeless according to the local Red Cross.

Heavy rains began on January 3 and continued through to Sunday, sweeping through homes, collapsing walls and causing landslides through many parts of the city.

“We’re really very sad today. My sister lost five children because of the rain. She’s inconsolable. We will bury them,” said Kinshasa resident Tshims Badibanga, as he attended the funeral of one of his relatives.

Flood victim Evariste Kazadi said: “All we have left is those few chairs there. Everything is gone. If I hadn’t been at home, I would have lost my children.”

The flooding is expected to exacerbate an ongoing cholera outbreak – the worst seen in DRC in 20 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

The disease has killed at least 1,190 people and spread to 24 of the country’s 26 provinces since it broke out in July. About 55,000 cases have been recorded.

In Kinshasa, cholera has been spreading quickly due to overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of access to drinking water.

“In previous weeks, we recorded around 20 cases on average,” said Jean Liyolongo of Doctors Without Borders (MSF). “Right now, we’re getting more than 100 cases each week. In Kinshasa, more than 450 [cases] have been registered.”

The city of 12 million is prone to flooding. It has notoriously poor infrastructure; improvised wooden shacks line the waterfront of the Congo River, and dirt roads often flood with the first rainfall.

Anger is mounting towards the government, which is accused of doing little to prevent further tragedy.

The government blames last week’s flooding on blocked drainage caused by unauthorised settlements.

Kinshasa actually recorded 182mm of rain in a 24-hour spell. It is the rainy season, so heavy downpours can be expected at this time of year. However, this total exceeds the normal amount of rainfall for the entire month of January. The monthly average is around 135mm.

At the Bandalungwa community centre in the Funa district in Kinshasa, the Congolese flag currently flies at half-mast. The government has declared two days of mourning for flood victims.

Other parts of the country have also been affected by flooding in recent months. At least 10 people died, and another 92 went missing in the east in September after torrential rains caused a river to overflow its banks.