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World News

'We don't want more people to die': Christian charity's urgent call for help in DR Congo as floods kill over 400

by Heather Preston

Christian charity Tearfund is calling on the international community to act fast to save lives after flash floods killed hundreds and left thousands homeless in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

More than 400 people have died after torrential rain, which began on Thursday, triggering landslides and causing four rivers to break their banks in the country's eastern region.

Thousands more have lost their homes or gone missing while churches, schools and other vital buildings have been destroyed by the unexpectedly heavy rains.

Tearfund gave a warning that without urgent intervention, the death toll would rise.

Tearfund's DRC spokesperson Hebdavi Kyeya told Premier the landslides have hindered access routes, making it harder for aid agencies to step in:

"Tearfund had trouble reaching this place - it took our team at least two days before we were able to find a way to reach this area. Because of the landslides, the bridges that have collapsed, the team was trying a certain road and they are not able to go. Finally, they had to use the lake and a boat."

More than 2000 houses have been destroyed and over 1000 people are still missing. Kyeya says his biggest fear is that the number of missing people will turn into deaths: "It's really a time of mourning, but also a time where action is required to be able to support the people who have been affected by this crisis."

The Congolese government declared Monday as a national day of mourning, with flags to fly at half-staff in memory of the victims.

The flood has been described as one of the country's deadliest natural disasters in recent history and Kyeya says locals face numerous threats to life in its aftermath, including cholera, malnutrition and dehydration.

"If we don't do something very quickly, then more people will be dying.

"There is no clean water so people don't have water to drink - all the water infrastructure has been damaged. The toilets have been washed out so sanitation facilities are gone and there could be a cholera outbreak. There could be malnutrition very soon because people do not have food - young children, the ones who are especially under five could be facing malnutrition very soon and they could start dying.

"Tearfund are trying to do a quick intervention so that at least we can save lives in the immediate, so that there won't be more people dying. We don't want more people to die so it's needed that we do something and we do something really urgently."

The World Meteorological Organisation has warned that rising temperatures increase the intensity and frequency of rains across Africa.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the floods as "another illustration of the acceleration of climate change" and the impact on nations "that have contributed nothing to global warming".

Kyeya said his teams have been "shocked by what they’ve seen."

"Once again the people who’ve done the least to create climate change are paying the price for it - with their lives.”

Tearfund is calling on the international community to provide urgent help to the DRC and is encouraging Christians to pray for victims' families, those who are missing and aid agencies delivering support.


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