At least eight people killed and 20 others missing after an overloaded motorised passenger canoe broke in two.

Lake Kivu is one of many waterways in constant use in the vast country where roads are often not fit for travel.
Lake Kivu is one of many waterways in constant use in the vast country where roads are often not fit for travel. (Reuters)

At least eight people have drowned and 20 others have gone missing after a motorised canoe broke in two on Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The governorate of South Kivu province said there were "eight deaths, 20 missing and 60 people saved" in the accident, which happened on Thursday.

Delphin Birimbi, a local civil society representative, told AFP the old canoe was overloaded and broke in two.

The large lake, straddling the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo with Rwanda, is one of many waterways in constant use in the vast country where roads are often not fit for travel.

But in changeable weather, with waves slamming the hulls of perilously overloaded wooden boats where safety rules are routinely ignored, shipwrecks often occur at a heavy human and material cost.

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Overhaul promised

In 2019, a shipwreck claimed around 100 lives on the lake, prompting President Felix Tshisekedi to make life jackets compulsory for every passenger.

But in the canoes on Lake Kivu, standard orange life jackets are few and far between.

Tshisekedi, who had visited bereaved families, also promised new boats but none have so far materialised.

The head of state also promised the rehabilitation of four ports on the shores of the lake.

Provincial authorities recently welcomed a start to the work in Kalehe.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies