At least 50 people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital Kinshasa after heavy rains unleashed floods and caused landslides, the city’s police chief Sylvano Kasongo said on Tuesday.
Entire neighborhoods were flooded with muddy water, and houses and roads ripped apart by sinkholes, including the N1 highway that connects Kinshasa to the chief sea port of Matadi.
“We are already at around 50 deaths and that is not yet final,” Kasongo said.
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.
Muyaya said “several dozen compatriots” had died. He added that the prime minister, governor and other officials were on the ground making assessments and would give a final toll later.
The prime minister’s office said in a statement that the N1 highway, which connects Kinshasa to other cities, was cut in two in the Mont-Ngafula district.
The road should be reopened in 3-4 days, it said.
“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.