May 3, 2011 / 6:05 PM / 7 years ago

DR Congo sacks minister after new boat deaths

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has sacked his transport minister after the latest in a series of boat accidents killed over 100 people this week, the government spokesman said on Tuesday.

<p>File photo of Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila arriving for the summit on the ongoing crisis in eastern Congo in Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 7, 2008. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya</p>

A boat that was not meant to be carrying any passengers but was believed to be loaded with some 300 people sank on the Kasai River overnight between Sunday and Monday.

Information Minister Lambert Mende told Reuters Kabila had sacked Laure Marie Kawanda Kayene for failing to tackle the issue of safety on Congo’s waterways.

“She should have introduced rules to prevent boats travelling at night and to stop cargo boats from carrying passengers,” Mende added.

Mende was not able to give a toll but United Nations radio reported on Monday that 100 people were missing.

“We don’t have the exact number (of victims) but we think it is probably considerably higher than what has already been reported,” he said, adding that the government would pay the funeral costs for the victims.

Travel on water is popular in Congo due the lack of road infrastructure but accidents on rivers and lakes are common due to poor maintenance and overcrowding, with the death toll often high because many of the passengers cannot swim.

Last week a boat sank on Lake Kivu in the east of the country, killing at least 40 people according to the Congolese Red Cross.

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