By Anders Lorenzen
After devastating floods hit the region earlier this month, the full extent of damages and casualties is still to be determined in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo; so far at least 400 people have been killed.
This biodiversity-sensitive and politically unstable country has just experienced one of its deadliest-ever disasters. The deadly flash floods swept away entire homes and buried the villages of Bushushu and Nyamukubi in muck and debris – both located in South Kivu province. Humanitarian workers have spent days recovering bodies from mud-caked wrecked villages in the Kalehe territory as landslides had been triggered after days of torrential rain caused rivers to break their banks last week. According to the United Nations (UN), hundreds of people still remain unaccounted for. In addition, the Congolese Red Cross has said that 274 people have been buried so far including 98 women and 82 children. Another 8,800 people have been impacted by the floods which the organisation said swept away homes, schools and cut off roads, destroyed sewage systems and with bodies lying in debris, it raised concerns about sanitation.
An unprecedented disaster
The central government has called the extreme weather event an unprecedented humanitarian disaster and has sent a delegation to the impacted area.
As always extreme weather events need a scientific assessment to define to what extent they can be linked to climate change, but what can be said with certainty is that the intensity and frequency of Africa’s rains are increasing according to climate science. This combined with poor urban planning and weak infrastructure makes the country more vulnerable to climate-fueled extreme weather events.
The week before, neighbouring but much wealthier Rwanda also experienced floods and landslides which killed 130 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes.