World

Congo boat accidents kill dozens

At least 270 people are believed dead in Congo after two riverboats capsized in separate incidents on Saturday.

At least 270 people are believed dead  in Congo after two riverboats capsized in separate incidents on Saturday.

The deadliest accident was in Kasai Occidental province in southern Congo, where 200 people are feared dead after an overloaded boat caught fire and capsized on the Kasai River Saturday evening.

Fabrice Muamba, a passenger on the boat, said he believed only 15 people were able to swim to safety. He said passengers began jumping overboard after the engine caught fire.

Boat owner Mwamba Mwati Nguma Leonard said a survivor and an employee called to tell him the fire started when workers spilled fuel.

"At the moment I am crying after learning my boat caught fire," he said. "I was just told on phone that it was while seamen were putting fuel into the tank that an explosion occurred after the oil touched the vessel's battery.

Crew members arrested

Francois Madila, an official with the provincial Navigation Department, said police arrested two members of the riverboat's crew and are investigating the accident.

He said the sailors haven't said how many people were aboard and that the passenger list appears to have disappeared in the fire.

Another 70 people are believed to have died when a riverboat hit a rock and capsized early Saturday in northwest Congo.

Equateur Province spokeswoman Ebale Engumba said Sunday about 15 people survived the accident.

With files from The Associated Press