Tuesday 20 December 2022

Flooding in Kinshasa is now known to have killed at least 169 people.

At least 169 people are now known to have died in flooding in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, amid unprecedentedly high rainfall which hit the city on 12-13 December 2022. As well as the obvious danger of high water levels, the flash floods caused by the rains triggered a series of landslides and sinkholes across the city, with the informal settlements of the Mont-Ngafula and Ngaliema districts particularly badly hit. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall.

Houses undermined by a landslip caused by flooding in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Reuters.

Many of the worst affected areas are informal settlements in areas where homes have been constructed on flood-prone slopes without official permission, by people who have moved to Kinshasa to escape often-violent political turmoil in other parts of the country. Such settlements tend to clear vegetation from the area, exposing the soil and removing stability provided by the root structure of plants.

Streets washed away by flash floods in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Reuters.

Kinshasa has a wet tropical climate, with a long rainy season lasting from October to May and the highest rainfall levels typically coming in November. This year's rains have been exceptionally heavy, and have caused flooding events across western Central Africa, driven by high temperatures over the South Atlantic, which has led to high levels of evaporation, and therefore precipitation over Africa. The Congolese President, FĂ©lix Tshisekedi, has laid the blame for the flooding on Human-driven global warming, and called on polluting developed nations to do more to support developing nations most severely hit by the changing climate.

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