At least 135 people die in Congo after Kinshasa floods

At least 135 people died in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday after heavy rains caused flooding and landslides in the capital, Kinshasa, Congolese officials said. It is the latest in a string of deadly environmental disasters to hit West and Central African countries this year.

Many neighborhoods, major infrastructure and major roads were still under water or in ruins on Wednesday after downpour the night before caused the worst flooding in years in the city of 15 million people.

President Félix Tshisekedi, who is in Washington for a United States-Africa Summitdeclared three days of mourning and said he would cut his trip short, returning to Kinshasa on Thursday after meeting President Biden.

West and Central Africa has suffered devastating floods this year, highlighting a deadly mix of chaotic urban development and climate change facing dozens of rapidly growing African cities.

In Chad, the worst flooding in decades displaced thousands of people in September and left the capital, Ndjamena, navigable only by boat. In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, hundreds of people died, a million were displaced and at least 200,000 homes were destroyed in October after the worst floods in a decade.

The scientists said in a report last month that the rainy season, which runs from April to October, had been 20% wetter than it would have been without climate change.

In Congo, many people have died after houses collapsed in landslides in the early hours of Tuesday. The death toll of around 135, provided by two Congolese officials, was preliminary, one said, as more victims were likely to be found in the coming days. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the official death toll had not yet been released.

Videos shared on social networks showed streams of muddy water carrying cars and debris, submerged buildings, and roads bisected by mudslides. One person called the city “unrecognizable”.

Once a small fishing village on the banks of the Congo River, Kinshasa has become a megalopolis, one of the largest in Africa.

Many houses are in informal settlements built near the river or on slopes prone to landslides. In 2019, dozens of people died after rains flooded lower parts of the city.

But Tuesday’s floods were far more destructive.

A landslide has smothered a highway that serves as a key supply route between Kinshasa and Matadi, a port further down the Congo River that is a crucial outlet to the Atlantic Ocean for the landlocked country.

African countries are among the hardest hit by climate change and are also the fastest urbanising, posing major challenges as their ever-expanding cities face huge economic losses from disasters environmental. They have long struggled to get funding for climate change adaptation.

In 2020, the World Bank valued that transport disruption caused by each day of flooding in Kinshasa costs its households $1.2 million – a figure that does not include damage to infrastructure and losses to businesses and supply chains.

Heavy rains in Nigeria this year have flooded at least 270,000 acres of arable land, leaving analysts warning of further worsening food insecurity in the region. Overall, 2.5 million acres of arable land have been flooded in West and Central Africa due to above-average rainfall this year, according to the UN. world food program.

The organization warned last week that around 48 million people are expected to go hungry in the region next year, including nine million children, as governments grapple with the effects of climate change and consequences of the war in Ukraine.

At the COP27 meeting this fall, diplomats agreed to create a fund that would help poor countries coping with climatic disasters aggravated by major greenhouse gas emitters.

On Wednesday in Washington, Mr. Tshisekedi, the Congolese president, blamed rich countries for the damage in Kinshasa this week. Without mentioning uncontrolled urban development, he said that “hundreds of lost human lives” should have been avoided if polluting countries had fulfilled their commitment to combat climate change.

“There is an urgent need to act quickly and now,” he said.

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