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2 boats crash in western Congo; death toll unclear

Two boats have collided on the Congo River in western Congo, local officials said, giving conflicting accounts on deaths.

Alexis Mampa, chief of the Maluku municipality, said no one died in the collision Monday east of Congo’s capital of Kinshasa. Another local official, Eliezer Ntambwe, at first said dozens were dead but later said the toll wasn’t clear.

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It was not known what caused the boats loaded with people and goods to collide.

Horrified residents watched from the riverbank. A video seen by The Associated Press shows people flailing in the water while small boats move towards them.

Deadly boating accidents occur frequently in Congo as crews often overload small wooden vessels. Rivers are key to transport in the vast central African country with some of the world’s least developed road infrastructure. Most river traffic is run by small, informal operators, and officials have warned that adherence to maritime regulations is poor.

In January, most of the 50 passengers aboard a wooden boat that capsized on a lake in eastern Congo were presumed dead.

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