Democratic Republic of Congo started two days of national mourning on Monday for 48 people killed by floods and mudslides in the capital Kinshasa amid concerns of a cholera outbreak in the vast city of 10 million.
The mid-week fatalities following torrential rain wreaked havoc on flimsy homes which were flattened by mudslides.
“I am here to survey the damage first-hand,” said Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala, visiting the working-class districts of Bandal and Kitambo of the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo.
He met a widow in her fifties who lost five children in the floods. She wasn’t home at the time and her sixth child – a 14-year-old girl – was rescued by her neighbour John Bompengo, a photographer.
“Around two in the morning on Thursday I was woken by a deafening sound. We ran. We climbed the roof… and we pulled out the young girl who cried immediately ‘My brothers are already dead’,” he told AFP.
Bompengo and other neighbours brought out the five bodies and rescued people from other homes in the shantytown.
On Sunday, the governor of Kinshasa Andre Kimbuta gave relatives of some of the victims “the equivalent of $2 000” under the glare of television cameras.
The floods came at a time when Kinshasa faces the threat of a cholera outbreak with 220 registered cases and 23 deaths since November.
Julio Iponge, a nurse, said the floods increased the risk “of greater contamination”.
Three-quarters of homes in Kinshasa are slums which have no access to sanitation or electricity, Corneille Kanene, former head of UN-Habitat, said last year.
A common estimate is that Kinshasa has 10 million inhabitants, amounting to a rough doubling over less than 20 years, and accounting for possibly a seventh of the national population.
Kinshasa is Africa’s third largest city after Cairo and Lagos.