The toll from a tornado that that swept through an area surrounding the town of Yumbi in the northwest of Bandundu Province in western Democratic Republic of the Congo on Sunday has left 164 people dead, 1,702 injured, 1,664 houses destroyed and 1,970 families homeless, government officials reported during an emergency meeting.
"According to information received from emergency teams, we are fairly certain that the death toll from the tornado will not rise above the present figure of 164," Leonard Mashako Mamba, the health minister, told IRIN on Wednesday. "Most of the deaths and injuries were caused by debris from huts and structures made of sticks." Preliminary reports had said that about 40 people had died.
Mamba said 217 of the injured were "serious cases". He said the rainstorm at 23:00 local time on Sunday had lasted 15 minutes and destroyed numerous schools. The villages of Molumbu, Nkolo, Bombala, Maboka, Bongembe, Nkombe and Botamba, all within a radius of 168 km from Yumbi (located about 300 km northeast of the capital, Kinshasa), were affected by the tornado.
Emergency relief efforts have been under way since Monday morning, including an airlift of some 800 mt of medical supplies provided by an alliance of American churches from Kinshasa.
"We are currently mobilising teams of doctors specialised in trauma and surgery. But we also have to organise for the distribution of potable water, housing, food and medicine, and for the management of health centres," Mashako said.
"There is an urgent need for food and shelter," said one representative from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who confirmed the figures reported by Mashako, and said other UN agencies, such as the World Health Organisation, the UN Children's Fund, the World Food Programme, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, were ready to send aid.