The high death toll shows what happens when countries don’t take urban planning seriously, says Nicolas-Patience Basabose, editor of the French-language news weekly LeCongolais, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“This disaster could have been prevented,” he says in a phone interview. “Twenty or 25 years ago, that area around the depot was an open place, but the city grew up around it, and nobody thought about why these buildings were there. And nobody in the city government thought that maybe the depot should have been moved out of there.”

“It is true of many African countries, including my own country, the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), which have inherited colonial structures,” says Mr. Basabose. “For many government officials, it’s all about power and how to stay in and how to maximize the money through corruption. Nothing is being done to plan the city properly and think in the longer term interest. Now they are paying the price.”

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