More than 120 people have died in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa after torrential rains caused severe flooding in the city, according to a government statement issued Wednesday.
The rainfall began on Monday and continued through Tuesday, it said. Severe damage could be seen in video obtained by news agency Reuters, with roofs and roads collapsed and people walking knee-deep in water.
Congolese Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde chaired a crisis meeting Tuesday evening, with several local and police officials, the statement released by his office on Wednesday said.
Three days of national mourning has been declared “following the enormous loss of human life.”
The government will also cover funeral costs for those deceased, the statement added.
The toll may still 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.
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.
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.