Local authorities have reported the death of at least 26 people on Wednesday after an overhead high-voltage cable fell into a drainage ditch at a market in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s capital Kinshasa.
Charles Mbutamuntu, the spokesman for the Kinshasa provincial government revealed that the cable snapped and the live end of it fell into a ditch that was filled with water after the morning rain.
The ditch runs across a popular food market known as Matadi-Kibala, in the west of the city, a sprawling metropolis of more than 10 million people.
Local security officers say the death toll may be more.
“Most of the people killed were traders and customers, and some passers-by. The bodies are being taken to the morgue and an investigation has been opened to establish responsibility,” Mbutamuntu said.
Kinshasa is one of the districts in DRC that is prone to flooding as a result of tropical downpours. In 2021, at least 40 people died from flooding or related disasters, while well over 72,080 were displaced from their homes across the country of over 90 million people.
The flooding is further made worse by poorly-maintained drainage systems that date back to the colonial era.
A 2022 report shared that 13,325 people were left homeless after torrential rain, strong winds and lightning hit Kindu and surrounding areas on 21 January 2022. A total of 2,267 houses were affected, including 403 destroyed. According to reports, the flooding was worsened by blocked and inadequate drainage systems, plus the building of makeshift or poorly constructed homes on flood plains.
Meanwhile, an official from the state-run electricity company attributed the recent deaths to a lightning strike that severed the cable as well as the illegal issuance of permits to build market stores right under the cables. Witnesses have however denounced the electricity company’s statement, categorically stating that the electricity company need to maintain their infrastructures better.
“The SNEL (national electricity company) should monitor their equipment, they earn a lot of money by monitoring their equipment, it will be good for the safety of their customers”.