MSF reacts to ferry disaster in the DRC
27 November 2003
An MSF doctor, Didier Bompange, is in place on the shores of Lake Mai-Ndombe, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, helping to co-ordinate a rescue effort in the aftermath of the sinking of a passenger ferry, which has so far claimed over 100 lives. Dr Bompange, co-ordinator of the MSF Congolese emergency pool covering the region in which Lake Mai-Ndombe lies, was investigating a medical alert near the lakeshore town of Inongo when news of the disaster came. According to Olaf Valverde, MSF assistant medical co-ordinator for the DRC, "the ferry sank between 15:00 and 16:00 on Tuesday afternoon, and fortunately the MSF doctor was able to rapidly get to the scene to co-ordinate the search for survivors with local authorities, as well as the grim task of identification and burial of the dead. He has also been able to provide a basic medical kit for the survivors." Dr Bompange took part in a helicopter search for survivors, 222 of whom have so far been accounted for. Seven more bodies have been discovered in the course of this morning, bringing the total number of confirmed dead to 110. The number of people still missing is unclear since such ferries regularly exceed their capacity. "There are unconfirmed reports that 66 further bodies are located in Kesenge, a village to the south-west of Inongo, but there is still hope that more survivors will be found," said Valverde. "Clearly finding them is the first priority. An MSF base in Mbandaka will be sending shelter equipment and complementary medical supplies to Inongo as soon as possible in close coordination with MONUC, OCHA, Red Cross and the National Authorities.