Search for Congo flood victims spurs health fears

STORY: A week after torrential rains triggered deadly floods in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Red Cross volunteers are still working to recover the bodies of victims.

With shovels, sticks and bare hands, they struggle to clear caked mud from around a half-buried body.

It is then carried two miles to the nearest burial site, where empty coffins lay waiting.

Volunteer Julien Bisimwa said it's starting to take a toll.

"Since we started this work, together with the Red Cross, we have reached the level where the bodies are starting to rot and they start to smell, that hurts us, and some of us have fallen ill. When we go to the medical centre to get treated, we are asked for money. But we know very well that we don't have that money. That's why we decided to stop this job for our safety."

Floods ripped through riverside villages in South Kivu province last week… razing houses, destroying crops and killing more than 400 people.

With rains still battering the region, health authorities are concerned the population is at risk of water-borne diseases.

Pacifique Chiralwira is the region’s head medical officer.

"You know that all the drinking water sources have been cut off, have been damaged, everything is gone, there are toilets that have been washed away. At the moment the population, the survivors are going to drink the water of the lake, while we continue to discover bodies in there, which exposes us, exposes our population in the long run to water-borne diseases."

Local officials on Tuesday (May 9) said that around 5,000 people may still be missing.