In a devastating turn of events, the Congo River has surged to its highest levels in over six decades, unleashing a series of floods across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Congo Republic. This Generational flood hits Congo, leaving a catastrophic toll of more than 300 deaths in recent months, as announced by authorities.
Experts attribute the disaster to a combination of factors, including poor urban planning, weak infrastructure, and increasingly frequent intense rains, exacerbated by climate change, leading to the flood hitting Congo. Ferry Mowa, a hydrology specialist at the DRC Riverways authority, had earlier flagged the dangerously high water levels in late December. He warned of potential widespread flooding, particularly in Kinshasa, the capital city along the riverbanks.
As of Wednesday, the river’s water level reached an alarming 6.20 meters (20.34 feet) above sea level, perilously close to the 1961 record of 6.26 meters. This rise followed a period of exceptionally heavy rainfall inland. Mowa emphasized the urgency for residents near the river to relocate to safer areas.
The flooding’s impact is widespread, with several neighbourhoods in Kinshasa submerged and communities in over a dozen provinces severely affected. The DRC’s social affairs ministry reported nearly 300 deaths and the displacement of around 300,000 households, with thousands of homes destroyed.
Across the river in the Congo Republic, the situation mirrors the distress. Authorities reported at least 17 fatalities across eight departments, including the capital, Brazzaville, with over 60,000 households impacted.
As The generational flood hits Congo, floodwaters have transformed streets into rivers, with residents resorting to shovels as makeshift paddles. Homes are inundated, some up to roof level, trapping families and their belongings. The floods have also brought a surge of plastic waste and debris, clogging the streets and exacerbating the crisis.
In Kinshasa’s Ngaliema municipality, residents like Helene are facing unprecedented levels of flooding. Despite having lived in the neighbourhood all her life, Helene expressed shock at the scale of the disaster and her lack of resources to relocate.
Raphael Tshimanga Muamba, director of a Congo Basin research centre, called for establishing a fund to manage natural disasters and adapt to climate change. He pointed out the DRC’s lack of a flood disaster prevention plan, a sentiment echoed by 18-year-old climate activist Ketsia Passou, who expressed surprise not at the rising water levels but at the authorities’ silence and inaction towards the affected families.
The DRC’s social and humanitarian affairs minister, Modeste Mutinga, announced that a meeting would be convened to evaluate the need for further humanitarian aid.
These unprecedented floods in the Congo region highlight the urgent need for effective disaster management and climate adaptation strategies in an increasingly volatile climate.