High-voltage power cable snaps in Kinshasa market, killing 26

KINSHASA, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Twenty-six people died on Wednesday after lightning struck a high-tension power cable on the outskirts of the Congolese capital Kinshasa, causing it to snap and fall on houses and a market, the authorities said.

The victims included 24 women and two men, and another two people were seriously injured, Democratic Republic of Congo's government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said on Twitter.

Power cables frequently collapse in Kinshasa, a city of more than 13 million people with outdated infrastructure and informal neighbourhoods that sprawl into areas not intended for residential development.

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Congo's national association of architects said in a statement that the accident, which could have been avoided, was a consequence of a lack of respect of town-planning regulations under high-voltage electricity lines.

A statement from the national electricity company said the lightning strike occurred during a heavy storm on Wednesday morning. The company offered its condolences to the families.

"Women and men lost their lives by electrocution this morning in a terrible accident at the Matadi-Kibala market following the severing of a phase conductor caused by bad weather," Prime Minister Sama Lukonde said on Twitter.

"I share the immense pain of the families. My thoughts are also with all the injured."

Videos from the market shared online showed people wailing around several bodies lying in puddles of water where they had fallen, with fresh produce scattered around them. Reuters was not able to authenticate the videos.

Muyaya said he and the prime minister had visited the site and that the government would hold a crisis meeting.

He said the government had already taken steps to relocate the market following a Jan. 7 cabinet meeting, where President Felix Tshisekedi said its location was snarling traffic along the road between Kinshasa and the port city of Matadi.

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Reporting by Stanis Bujakera and Fiston Muhamba; Writing by Bate Felix and Nellie Peyton; Editing by Kevin Liffey, William Maclean and Bernard Orr

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