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The BBC's Stephanie Wolters in Kinshasa
"Tens of thousands could be displaced in the coming weeks"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 23:48 GMT
Thousands flee DR Congo flooding

Thousands of people are being evacuated from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, ahead of what could become the "flood of the century".

Kikoy Kikum, the head of DR Congo's waterways authority warned that the overflowing Congo River is feeding a flood which "will last until January and will probably surpass" two other major floods this century in 1903 and 1961-62.

The flooding has forced the authorities to move up to 16,000 people to disused factories and government buildings.

Almost a fifth of Kinshasa's districts have already been hit by the rising waters, and tens of thousands of people are potentially at risk.

Michel Nouredine Kassa, an adviser to the United Nations in Kinshasa, says the River Congo is at its highest level since 1903 and the rainy season has only just begun.

Risk of disease

Water supplies to 50% of the population of Kinshasa have been cut, and purification systems at some of the capital's pumping stations are silting up.

Health officials fear outbreaks of cholera and other water-borne diseases, and have asked city residents to "show solidarity with the afflicted".

The government has appealed to the international donor community for aid in anticipation of continued heavy rains.

In a television broadcast on Monday, Health Minister Mashako Mamba said that any help from "partners" of DR Congo would be welcome.

Exceptional rains

The exceptional water levels are due to the simultaneous flooding of tributaries in the northern and southern Congo basin, according to Mr Kikum. These waterways do not normally swell at the same time.

Torrential rains have also started earlier than usual.

The Stanley Pool, a great interior lake, is at capacity and "can no longer play its role as the Congo's natural spill basin", Mr Kikum added.

In the neighbouring capital Brazzaville, on the opposite side of the river, residents in the Yoro district have started navigating the area in canoes.

Floods earlier in November left two people dead and thousands homeless, according to the Brazzaville authorities.

Towns and villages were flooded, bridges washed away and in many northern areas crops perished when the Congo River's tributaries burst.

The ability of the Brazzaville Government to deal with the disasters is severely hampered by the war between government and rebel forces which continues in the south and centre of the country.
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See also:
12 Nov 99 |  Africa
Thousands homeless in Congo floods
17 Nov 99 |  Africa
Treaty amid anarchy in Congo-Brazzaville

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