Kinshasa - More than 251 Congolese refugees perished in the weekend sinking of a crowded boat on Lake Albert, between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, Kinshasa said on Thursday.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende also declared three days of national mourning starting on Thursday in the wake of Saturday's disaster.

Uganda had said on Tuesday it had recovered 107 bodies including 57 children after the sinking of the boat, which was packed with refugees from the DRC hoping to return home from a camp in Uganda.

“It is with deep sorrow that we confirm to the nation the death of 251 of our compatriots who had boarded the boat from the Ugandan side of Lake Albert,” Mende told reporters.

He said there had been about 300 people on board at the time.

Navigation on central Africa's Great Lakes can be as perilous as sailing in high seas when the weather is rough. Accidents often lead to very high casualty tolls, partly because of a lack of life-jackets and also because relatively few people know how to swim.

Saturday's disaster happened just days after the DRC authorities launched a campaign to enforce the wearing of life jackets aboard all boats on the large nation's many waterways. - Sapa-AFP