At least 18 people drowned in western Congo after a riverboat carrying more than 300 passengers split in two and sank, a local police official said. Many were missing.
The majority of people on the vessel were local government officials, according to Martin Nakweti, the acting police chief in Mai-Ndombe province's Oshwe territory, where the incident took place on Tuesday.
Police and divers searched the Lukenie River for missing passengers as officials awaited more information to help them to assess what caused the boat to fail.
Residents of riverside communities in Congo rely on wooden ferries known as “balanieres” to travel between home and work in areas where there are often no roads.
Boat sinkings also are common in remote parts of the country, including in Mai-Ndombe, a province full of lakes and rivers located 400 kilometers (249 miles) east of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.
Local official David Bisaka drowned in April after his boat sank on the Mfimi River in the same province, according to the local assembly.
According to Bovic Ngampenga, the president of a civil society organisation in Oshwe, the ferry that sank Tuesday was overloaded, in disrepair and “should no longer be in operation".