DR Congo mourns flood victims as cholera fears mount
People gather at a market on July 21, 2011 on the banks of the Congo river near the village of Ngamanzo in the municipality of Maluku, Kinshasa province. The area is under surveillance by medical officials for signs of Cholera following an epidemic last March that started at Kisangani in the north-east before spreading west, along the Congo River infecting some 3,700 and killing more than 250. Six weeks ago, the clinic at Ngamanzo identified its first case of cholera, a man from Dilolo. Since then, at least a dozen patients have been identified as infected with the intestinal infection characterised by profuse diarrhea and vomiting at the poorly equipped clinic, including a 35 year old woman who succumbed to the illness. When the disease appeared, residents of Ngamanzo refused to refrain from drinking river-water; "They say God created the water, they began taking it long ago and there has never been a problem," says Gilbert Kanyinda, a health worker in the area. (AFP PHOTO / Junior KHANNA)
(AFP) - DR Congo started two days of national mourning 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.
© Agence France-Presse