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00:34, 26 February 2018 Monday
Update: 21:42, 06 January 2018 Saturday

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In DR Congo, flood tragedy highlights perils of urban sprawl
In DR Congo, flood tragedy highlights perils of urban sprawl

Among the 44 people who perished overnight Wednesday in Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo, were a teenager, Brunelle, her sister Gladys, and Gladys' baby.

World Bulletin / News Desk

The morning light showed a scene of desolation as people in Ngaliema surveyed the wreckage of shanty homes swept away by killer floods and landslips.

Their home of makeshift yellowish clay bricks, located at the foot of a steep slope literally dissolved after the waters struck, neighbours said.

"The emergency services came, but they arrived late, around 4:00 am," said a young man, Magloire, who said that he was the one who found the bodies.

The disaster was one that could have been avoided -- the rainfall was indeed torrential but not exceptional, given this city's location in the heart of central tropical Africa.

But mass fatalities were sadly predictable, given the triple contribution of poverty, uncontrolled development and over-population. Homes made of flimsy materials had been built illegally and without foundations in a place vulnerable to floods.

"This is uncontrolled building," said Ruffin Abedi, deputy chief of Ngaliema district.

"The regulations have stipulated for years that people shouldn't live there. But people settle there anyway, because they don't have the money to go elsewhere."

A Chinese company had been contracted to install drainage on a road at the top of the slope, but the pipes were swept away by the rain, and lay among debris at the bottom, near a sofa -- the only visible sign of a home that once stood there.

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