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At Least 50 Killed in 2 Congo Boat Accidents - 2004-10-12

More than 50 people are confirmed dead and another 48 are missing after two overloaded canoes capsized Sunday in rough weather on a lake in eastern Congo.

The two boats were heavily laden with manioc, bananas and people as they traveled to Goma, a trading town at the northern tip of Lake Kivu, the thin stretch of water that separates Congo and Rwanda.

The overloaded boats encountered rough weather shortly after they set off late Sunday and local authorities say they both capsized within an hour of each other.

Other residents said that a rescue operation had been mounted by the local authorities, but the number of missing could be as high as 80. At least 45 people are known to have survived the accidents.

Years of war have left infrastructure in the vast African country in tatters, often limiting travel. Accidents resulting from overloaded vehicles, boats and airplanes are frequent.

Baliana Mastaki, the administrator of Kalehe, the district that both boats set off from, said motorized canoes like the pair that capsized Sunday often plied Congo's waters carrying up to 130 people at a time, a number he conceded was far too high.

Other residents say investigations were being launched to establish why the boats were traveling at night when there is not supposed to be any movement on the lake.