, KINSHASA, Sep 6 – A fishing boat capsized in the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing at least 24 people, a government spokesman said Monday, amid fears that up to 60 people were missing.
"Twenty-four people died in a capsize on the Ruki river in (western) Equateur province," on Sunday, Lamber Mende told AFP, referring to a tributary of the Congo river.
He said the boat was carrying "between 24 and 30 people."
However, the UN-backed Radio Okapi put the provisional death toll at 15 and said 60 people were missing.
"There have only been 15 survivors while nearly 100 people were on board," the radio said, citing among others, the spokeswoman for the provincial government of Equateur, Rebecca Ebala.
Mende said another boat accident occurred a day earlier in the central Kasai-Occidental province and that 24 people had managed to swim to safety but admitted the government had no idea if there were any deaths.
"Nobody is in a position to say at this moment whether there were others on the boat apart from the survivors and if there are people who are dead or missing.
"The deputy governor is there on the spot and he will send his report to us only today. We therefore have no basis to talk figures now. There was not even a passenger list as it was a cargo vessel," he added.
In July, 19 people were officially declared dead and 30 went missing after a boat sank between the province of Bandundu and the capital Kinshasa.
Boats and ferries are commonly used in the sprawling country, home to several major lakes and rivers, including the 4,700-kilometre (3,000-mile) Congo.
Accidents are frequent due to overloading, poor maintenance and the lack of safety standards and equipment on most vessels.