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80 die in ferry accident

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The accident occurred on the Congo River
  • Ferry accidents are frequent in Congo
  • The ferry was laden with people and cargo

(CNN) -- Eighty people were killed late Tuesday in a ferry accident in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a government spokesman confirmed Thursday.

Mende Omalanga, the spokesman, told CNN the accident occurred on the Congo River, a major transport and trade artery for the African country.

"We had a huge loss of human lives -- 80 persons died," he said.

He said the ferry was laden with people and cargo traveling from Kwilu on its way to Nangutuka in Bandundu province.

The government is awaiting official confirmation from the transport ministry about the cause of the accident.

The region is now in the dry season and the Congo River is low. "They probably ran aground," Omalanga said.

Ferry accidents are frequent in Congo, where transport regulations are rarely enforced.

"We ask that the boats don't overcharge," he said, making a reference to overfilling. "The river level is very low due to the season."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner passed along his condolences.

Officials from the Congo ministries of Transport and Internal Affairs and the Red Cross were at the scene.

CNN's David McKenzie and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report