The death toll could rise in the coming hours according to a provisional count.
“The search continues. Local residents have told us that there are bodies floating around. The death toll could therefore rise in the coming hours,” Charles Mbutamuntu, government spokesman warned.
According to him, the motorised wooden boat was heading to Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur province, 700 km from Kinshasa when the tragedy happened.
The number of passengers on board the boat is still unclear.
“We do not have the exact number of people who were on board, but there are reports of nearly 600 passengers on board, which suggest that several of them are missing” Mbutamuntu said.
According to the government spokesman “a whaleboat overloaded with passengers and goods capsized Sunday on the Congo River, 23 km from Kinshasa, around 20:00.”
As the second largest country in Africa with 2.3 million square kilometres, the DRC has very few motorable roads.
Travel is often on the Congo River and its tributaries and lakes.