KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — A boat ferrying about 200 passengers to Congo’s capital capsized after hitting a mud bank. At least 80 people were confirmed dead, a government spokesman said yesterday, and news reports said as many as 60 more passengers were missing and feared dead.
Rescuers were searching for missing people after the disaster on the Kasai River, a tributary of the Congo River.
The boat, the HB Yedu, was heading to Kinshasa from the Kwilu district of Bandundu Province, on the western border of the country.
It was overloaded and sank outside the town of Mangutuka, about 74 miles east of Kinshasa, the capital, said Lambert Mende, the government information minister. He said the river was unusually low at the time the boat ran aground.
The government is investigating the accident and will send aid, he said.
Ali Treki of Libya, the president of the UN General Assembly, called the disaster shocking and offered his condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Congo, a vast Central African country of jungles and huge rivers, has little more than 300 miles of paved road and few rails.
Many people prefer to take boats even if they cannot swim. The boats are often in poor repair, filled beyond capacity, and lack basic safety equipment.
In May, dozens of people died when an overloaded canoe capsized on a river in eastern Congo.
In November, at least 90 people were killed after a logging boat sank on Lake Mai-Ndombe in Bandundu Province. The timber-carrying vessel, which was not supposed to be carrying passengers, went down in bad weather.
In September 2009, more than 250 people died in three boat accidents on Congo waterways.
Congo has been torn by conflicts for decades, and its infrastructure is limited. The country’s longtime ruler, Mobutu Sese Seko, who held power for nearly four decades until 1997, built few roads or railroads as a way of minimizing the prospects of a rebel attack or a military coup against his regime.