30 dead, dozens missing in DR Congo boat accident: Mayor

KINSHASA (AFP) - At least 30 people died and dozens more were missing on Sunday (May 27) after a boat accident on a lake in western Democratic Republic of Congo, a local mayor said.

"So far, we have recovered 30 bodies, 12 women, 11 children and seven men," the mayor of Inongo, Mr Simon Mbo Wemba, told media including AFP, adding that there had been more than 350 passengers on board the boat, with only 183 survivors.

The accident happened on Saturday night on Lake Mai-Ndombe.

"The toll is still provisional," the mayor said, adding that it was difficult to know the exact number of passengers, as many could have been illegal immigrants.

River transport is one of the most used in DR Congo with its numerous waterways. Boat mishaps are common, typically caused by overloading of passengers and cargo.

Tolls are often high because there are no life jackets and many Congolese do not know how to swim.

Last month, at least 167 people died in two accidents, prompting President Felix Tshisekedi to make it mandatory for boat passengers to have lifebuoys.

Twenty-seven people were reported drowned in a boat sinking in September last year, 26 last July, another 50 last May, and 40 people in April whose boats sank as they fled fighting.

Sub-Saharan Africa's biggest country, the DR Congo is struggling with local conflicts, and in remote areas, the control of the central government in Kinshasa is weak.