AFRICA/DR CONGO - More than 400 dead due to floods: a tragedy caused by poor land management?

Tuesday, 9 May 2023 floods  

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - The catastrophic floods that hit the residents of the Kalehe area, in the province of South Kivu, east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on May 4th, in particular inundating the villages of Bushushu and Nyamukubi, have so far claimed 400 lives . This number is likely to increase further, since the first bodies of the missing are now being found after the water level has dropped. In addition to the victims, there are numerous injured people who are being treated in the local health centers and in the provincial capital Bukavu.
Rescue operations continue, with priority given to burying the bodies to avoid outbreaks of epidemics. First aid shipments of medicine, tents and food from the South Kivu provincial government arrived on Saturday, local sources said. Meanwhile, President Félix Tshisekedi declared national mourning.
The tragedy happened on the night of May 4-5 when torrential rains hit the Kalehe area and the rivers and streams in the area swelled. The masses of water quickly burst their banks and, mixed with the mud, swept away the houses at the foot of the hills.
According to local sources, the disaster was favored by the fact that the inhabited areas inundated by the flood of water and mud are located at the foot of hills that have been subject to a strong deforestation process in recent decades, linked not only to the increase in population but also to the intensification of agricultural and pastoral activities and the exploitation of mineral resources such as coltan, gold, cassiterite.
These raw materials are particularly valuable for global industry, while the local population does not benefit from mining. In addition to agriculture and livestock, fishing and small trades are the main activities of the local people.
In 2014, heavy rains caused severe flooding in the Kalehe region, which claimed at least 40 lives. There had also been other tragic floods in 2002 and 2003. The residents of the affected villages emphasize that these tragedies could probably be avoided by taking appropriate measures to secure the territory. In particular, through the reforestation of the area and the demolition of the numerous houses on the riverbanks, which not only pose a deadly threat to residents, but also contribute to the water not being able to drain properly during floods. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 9/5/2023)