The grim toll has only increased since the tragedy, but the coffins still arrive in drab and dull condition. The government was first dispatched four days after a massive landslide almost completely destroyed several villages in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the latest report by the authorities, 401 people died in this extraordinary flood in the territory of Kalehe, 411 according to the local civil society, a group of citizens’ associations.
At the scene of the disaster, on Tuesday, May 9, a government delegation from the capital Kinshasa and three ministers, the second vice president of the National Assembly, vice presidents and the regional governor pledged support to bring food to survivors. And new coffins. Many political figures, including 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate gynecologist Denise Mukwege, have become an icon as they condemn the lack of burials and hasty burials in mass graves.
You really need to act fast. The bodies, some of which have washed up in nearby rivers and Lake Kivu, must be cleaned up quickly to avoid contaminating the water. Cholera is particularly prevalent in this region. bodies “Those who continue to be discovered as we speak “, says world, Mars, Delphin Kirimbi, in an advanced stage of decay for some. The Kalehe civil society leader fears an increase from the balance sheet “5,255 people still missing”, he explains. 201 people are missing, a higher number than reported by authorities.
Many have lost their families, homes, livestock and fields. According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination in the DRC (OCHA), around 3,000 families are now homeless and 1,200 homes have been completely destroyed. The mud and muck that washed over everything in its path took the citizens by surprise. However, this type of phenomenon is not alien to the area. There have already been several floods, most notably in 2014 that left hundreds of people missing. But this time due to rain on the market day, the damage has been more than ever before, the residents of the area say.
Why this series of disasters in Kahele? For the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Gutierrezabout that “A new example of the acceleration of climate change”. But in the absence of reliable weather or rainfall data, many Congolese researchers attribute these tragedies to human activity.
The region is characterized by its mountainous terrain known as high plateaus and steep slopes leading to a narrow valley leading to Lake Kivu. “Aerial photographs prove that in the 1950s, 80% of Kalehe’s territory was covered by forest. Today only 5% remain. Jean-Claude Maki Mateso of the Lwiro Natural Science Research Center in South Kivu explains. Deforestation for firewood or to clear agricultural land increases the risk of landslides. “Thus, heavy rainfall leads to strong runoff from the highlands to the lowlands where settlements are located,” Continues Rigobert Bahati Birembano, geography teacher at Bukavu Institute of Higher Education (ISP). are included in this “Inappropriate farming techniques that accentuate erosion”Mentions the geographer at Coma, Siraba Honoré.
In Kalehe, the pressure on the soil is strong because of the dense population. Several thousand displaced people, particularly from the neighboring province of North Kivu, have fled insecurity and fighting between the Congolese army and the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels. “Construction is completely anarchic and laws against building too close to rivers, streams or lakes are not respected”, Adds activist Delphine Grimby. “Yes, the responsibility for the tragedy is shared between us, the people, the unscrupulous state agents and the government. But the authorities must take their responsibility and relocate the survivors as soon as possible. »
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