Floods kill at least 120 in Congolese capital

In this file photo dated Feb 7, 2017, a man carries a young girl on his shoulders as he walks down a flooded street in the center of Kinshasa after several districts of the city were flooded as a result of an abrupt rise in water levels caused by a violent storm. (JUNIOR KANNAH / AFP)

KINSHASA – At least 120 people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital Kinshasa after heavy rains unleashed floods and caused landslides, a government document seen by Reuters showed on Tuesday.

Entire neighborhoods were flooded with muddy water, and houses and roads ripped apart by sinkholes, including the N1 highway that connects Kinshasa to the chief sea port of Matadi.

The prime minister's office said in a statement that the N1 could be closed for 3-4 days.

The death toll was compiled by the General Management of Migration, a part of the interior ministry.

Belongings and debris are washed up by a bridge as residents clean up following torrential rains in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec 13, 2022. (SAMY NTUMBA SHAMBUYI / AP)

Poorly regulated rapid urbanization has made Kinshasa increasingly vulnerable to flash floods after intense rains, which have become more frequent due to climate change

The toll may rise. Health minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani Mbanda told Reuters the ministry had counted 141 dead but that the number needed to be cross-checked with other departments.

READ MORE: DR Congo schedules presidential elections for Dec 2023

Images posted on Twitter by Congo's government spokesman Patrick Muyaya showed a major road that appeared to have subsided into a deep chasm, with crowds staring at the damage.

"On the National Road 1 there is a big hole. Only pedestrians can pass. We do not understand how the water cut the road," said local resident Gabriel Mbikolo.

Once a fishing village on the banks of the Congo river, Kinshasa has grown into one of Africa's largest megacities with a population of around 15 million.

READ MOREFighting resumes between army, M23 rebels in DR Congo

Poorly regulated rapid urbanization has made the city increasingly vulnerable to flash floods after intense rains, which have become more frequent due to climate change.

At least 39 people died in Kinshasa in 2019 when torrential rain flooded low-lying districts and some buildings and roads collapsed.

In addition to damaged infrastructure, each day of flooding costs households a combined $1.2 million due to the large-scale transport disruption, according to a 2020 World Bank paper.