Crisis Unfolds as Congo River Swells, Flooding Kinshasa

crisis unfolds as congo river swells flooding kinshasa
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Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), is in chaos as the Congo River breaches its banks, inundating working-class neighborhoods with dark and foul-smelling water. The city of 15 million people, situated along the second-largest river in Africa, has experienced near-record water levels in recent weeks, causing distress for its impoverished residents.

The flooding, an annual occurrence between December and mid-January in the Congo River basin, has reached unprecedented levels, affecting numerous small rivers and waterways that crisscross Kinshasa. Many of these water channels, also serving as open sewers, have overflowed, exacerbating the crisis.

In the Pompage district, a bridge over a small river has been submerged, creating stagnant pools in the residential area. Residents, lacking the bridge, resort to makeshift canoes pushed by young men through waist-deep water, with a fare of 500 Congolese francs ($0.19). The situation has led to extensive property damage and displacement.

Niclette Luzolo, a 32-year-old hairdresser in Pompage, shared the devastation, stating her house was completely flooded. The dire conditions have forced her to seek refuge in a church with her children, battling mosquitoes in precarious conditions.

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While flooding is not uncommon in Kinshasa, locals assert that this year’s deluge is the worst. In December, the River Congo Basin Management Agency (RVF) warned of “exceptional flooding,” with measurements indicating a river rise of 5.94 meters, nearing the 1961 record of 6.26 meters.

The RVF director, Daniel Lwaboshi, attributed the unusually high river levels to both climate change-induced heavier downpours and human activities such as deforestation and unplanned construction in flood-prone areas. The impact extends beyond immediate hardships, disrupting transportation and impeding the movement of goods between the capital and the country’s interior.

The extent of the flooding’s impact remains uncertain, but it is estimated to affect hundreds of thousands of people. Caritas, a Catholic charity, has appealed for assistance for around 100,000 households in Mbandaka, a riverside city northwest of Kinshasa. Similar pleas have been reported in Kisangani, where over 200 houses are reported submerged.

As the waters are expected to recede in the coming days with the onset of a brief dry season, the true extent of the damage will become apparent.

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