Boat Carrying Congo Youth Choir Capsizes, at Least 17 Dead

Post a Comment » Written on May 23rd, 2007     
Filed under: News
KINSHASA, CONGO (May 23, 2007) – At least 17 members of the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM) drowned Sunday on a rain-swollen river when their dugout canoe capsized. They were returning from a celebration that featured youth choirs from around the Wasolo region.

All but one of the bodies were recovered on Monday. Most of the victims reportedly were between the ages of 10 and 15. The others were adults who typically serve as sponsors. Reports conflict as to whether a total of 17 or 18 people drowned.

The accident occurred on the Uele River roughly nine miles east of Wasolo, located in a remote northeastern region of the country (see map below). Witnesses reported that the boat was buffeted by high winds that rose up suddenly, says Tom Christy, an engineer from Salina, Kansas, who served as a short-term missionary in the area and has returned many times to help with projects.

“This is the rainy season, and this time of year, that river can get like the Mississippi—it’s really moving,” Christy says. The river can span a quarter to half mile wide, and boats generally are put in the water far upstream from their destination to account for the strong currents, he adds. The boats are large, and can be as wide as nine feet, he adds.

According to Reuters, Congo has only 370 miles of paved road “in a country roughly the size of western Europe,” so the nation’s many rivers are significant transportation routes.

The youth in the boat may have been hampered by a lack of experience on the water, Christy says. “These kids didn’t live along the river so they weren’t swimmers.” The victims are believed to be from the villages of Kongba Bema, Yu Yu, Ingwa, and Mbalo.

A leadership team, lead by CEUM Vice President Mawe is reported to be on its way to the Wasolo region to assist with the aftermath of the accident.

Covenant News Service will continue to update this story as information becomes available.

(Source: Microsoft Encarta Reference Library. All Rights Reserved.)

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