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Death toll rises to 163 in Congo ferry disaster
( 2003-11-27 17:34) (Agencies)

At least 163 people were drowned when two ferries collided on a lake in Democratic Republic of Congo, more than the 50 initially reported missing, the government said on Thursday.

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Nzuzi wa Mbombo said 222 people has escaped from the disaster involving two ferries carrying an estimated 450-500 people. The accident occurred on Monday during a storm.

"It was two boats that collided due to a strong storm. The latest information we received at 8.30 a.m. this morning is that we're talking about 163 dead, that's bodies found," she said.

She said the search for survivors was continuing.

The disaster happened on Lake Mai-Ndombe, which means "Black Water" and is 250 miles northwest of the capital Kinshasa. The lake doubles or triples in size during the rainy season.

The western regions of the vast central African country have been deluged by heavy downpours as the rainy season gets into full swing.

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