Eighteen people drowned when two boats capsized in separate incidents in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), officials said on Tuesday.
The accidents happened overnight on Sunday in Lake Albert, which is shared by the DRC and Uganda, Pierre-Marie Udar, the lake commissioner for Ituri province, told AFP.
“The first was a motorised pirogue (large canoe) which capsized around midnight, and for which there was a toll of 17 dead and one survivor,” he said.
The casualties were Congolese who were living in Uganda and were traveling illegally at night after attending a funeral when their vessel encountered strong winds.
The other occurred near a village in Djugu territory, northeastern Ituri, for which the death toll was one, with one survivor, he said.
“Overloading and travelling by night” are the suspected causes of the accidents, Udar said.
There are few serviceable roads and transport by rivers and lakes is common in DRC, a country the size of western continental Europe.
But vessels are frequently poorly maintained and overladen with passengers and freight, and skippers often flout safety regulations that ban travel by night.
Loss of life is typically high as many boats do not carry sufficient lifejackets and few Congolese learn how to swim.