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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 02:28 GMT
Congo braced for devastating floods
Congo river
The Congo river is the lifeblood of the country

Heavy rains in the Democratic Republic of Congo could burst the banks of the River Congo, the country's national weather station has warned.

Such flooding would have devastating effects, particularly in the capital Kinshasa, where the river is at its widest.

The rainy season is almost four months old and already Congo's national weather station warns that it is the heaviest in ten years.

Kinshasa
Many parts of Kinshasa are at risk
Violent tropical storms regularly hit the capital Kinshasa and the river is dangerously high.

Forecasters say it has already risen by one metre (three feet) and that it will probably burst its banks.

If so, it will devastate the city - flooding not only the river ports on which Kinshasa's markets rely, but also low lying parts of the city, including many impoverished residential areas.

The health ministry has issued similar warnings and believes outbreaks of cholera and typhoid are likely.

Flooded classroom

Even if the river bursting does not its banks, Kinshasa's crumbling infrastructure can barely cope with the rainwater that thunders down on the city at least three times a week.

Most drainage canals are blocked by mud and trash and thousands of houses are permanently underwater.

The city authorities have started to do something about it but their resources are feeble.

Pupils at a primary school, for example, are forced to perch on bricks to keep themselves above the water that sits permanently in their classrooms.

Over the holidays, a dam was built around them to try to keep more water out. But the structure is made of festering, stinking household rubbish and is an appalling sight.

The local residents are happy that at least something is being done.

See also:

02 Sep 02 | Science/Nature
30 Nov 99 | Africa
12 Nov 99 | Africa
18 Dec 02 | Country profiles
Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


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