7 children dead in fire at camp for mudslide victims in Congo

The camp is home to around 420 families


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Photo used for illustrative purposes only.
Photo used for illustrative purposes only.

Published: Sun 20 Aug 2023, 7:00 PM

A fire that broke out at a camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo for hundreds of families that fled fatal flash floods and mudslides in May has killed seven children, local authorities said on Sunday.

The camp in Mushonezo is home to around 420 families from Bushushu, a village on Lake Kivu near the eastern border with Rwanda. The village was hammered by fierce rain and landslides that killed at least 400 people in May.

The blaze erupted on Saturday afternoon and killed seven children -- "two small boys and four small girls, aged one to five years old", said Thomas Bakenga, regional administrator for the Kalehe region.

He said four adults had been hospitalised for burns.

"The fire started in a hut in the middle of the site, where a child was cooking while the parents weren't there," he told AFP by telephone.

Around 360 huts of plastic tarps with thatched roofs were destroyed in the blaze, he said.

"We tried to save them but it was hopeless. The fire destroyed everything."

The number of victims and homes lost was confirmed by the head of a local civic group, Delphin Birimbi, who urged the government and NGOs "to come and help these disaster victims".

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that around 3,000 families had been left homeless after the flooding and mudslides in eastern DR Congo, a region already plagued by armed insurgencies against the central government.


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