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Great Lakes
Last Updated: Saturday, 29 November, 2003, 20:09 GMT
More dead found in DR Congo lake
A ferry destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo leaves Bangui in the Central African Republic on 10 November
Ferries in Africa are notoriously overcrowded
A government search team helped by villagers has pulled 120 bodies from a lake in the Democratic Republic of Congo where a ferry sank on Tuesday.

Some 200 people survived but there were about 450 aboard and rescuers have no hope of more survivors.

Bodies from the Dieu Merci are being buried three or four to a grave along the wooded shore of Lake Mayi Ndombe.

Authorities in the nearby town of Inongo are questioning the overcrowded ferry's owner and other officials.

Boat disasters are common on DR Congo's vast network of river and lakes, the BBC's Arnaud Zajtman reports, but Inongo has not seen such a disaster in years.

When the boat split, everyone fell in the water, searching for something to hold onto
Bienvenue Mwanku
DR Congo Vice President Azarias Ruberwa, who visited the town some 400 kilometres north-east of the capital Kinshasa, promised to punish anyone responsible for the deaths.

"We will take measures to determine responsibilities because the guilty absolutely must be punished," he said.

"Overcrowded as the boat involved in the accident was, even if there hadn't been bad weather, they should have seen this happening."

The government delivered two tons of aid to the town on Friday but its arrival provoked angry scenes as survivors accused officials in the impoverished town of 80,000 of dishonesty and corruption.

A church leader was finally appointed to manage the aid supplies and look after the survivors and families of victims.

'Everyone fell in the water'

The ferry, which appears to have actually been two vessels lashed together, ran into trouble when one of its boats' engines seized up.

Survivors say it went under in a matter of minutes after a storm blew up, sending waves nearing 2 metres (8 feet) in height to crash against the hulls, slamming the vessels together.

"When the boat split, everyone fell in the water, searching for something to hold onto," survivor Bienvenue Mwanku told AP news agency.

Another survivor, Deogratias Lulengwa, managed to stay afloat by grabbing a jerry can and waiting until he was picked up by fishermen. But his wife was among the drowned.

With only 30 passengers listed in the ferry's manifest, officials believe the exact number of victims may never be known. Aid workers believe the ferry had been designed to carry no more than 100 passengers.

Our correspondent says rivers are a central part of the lives of many Congolese, and the River Congo is often used as the highway of the nation.

Lake Mayi Ndombe lies on a tributary of the Congo, which was reopened to commercial traffic in April after being closed during the five-year civil war.

The lake, which is 2,300 km sq, doubles or triples in size during the rainy season, which is just starting.

Profile: River Congo
27 Nov 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
23 Aug 03  |  Country profiles
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20 Jul 02  |  Africa

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