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Congo munitions depot blasts killed at least 200, injured 1,500

Other News Materials 5 March 2012 18:20 (UTC +04:00)
Hospitals and clinics in the Republic of Congo on Monday issued an urgent appeal for donations of blood, after a series of blasts at a munitions depot in the capital Brazzaville killed at least 200 people and injured about 1,500, dpa reported.
Congo munitions depot blasts killed at least 200, injured 1,500

Hospitals and clinics in the Republic of Congo on Monday issued an urgent appeal for donations of blood, after a series of blasts at a munitions depot in the capital Brazzaville killed at least 200 people and injured about 1,500, dpa reported.

Medical staff have been overwhelmed by cases in the aftermath of the five explosions Sunday, which government officials said were probably caused by an electrical short-circuit.

Small blasts were heard into Monday as firefighters worked to prevent the fires reaching a second depot nearby, the official news agency reported.

Defence Minister Zacharie Bowao called doctors from across the country to Brazzaville hospitals, as local media reported that some of the injured had died due to a shortage of medical staff and resources.

Cabinet ministers gathered for emergency talks and President Denis Sassou N'Guesso addressed the nation, saying the country of 4.2 million had been hit by "an exceptional situation, a tragedy."

Sassou N'Guesso said 146 deaths had officially been recorded, with 1,500 people wounded.

Across the Congo River in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations-funded Radio Okapi quoted diplomatic sources as saying at least 200 people had died.

Hospitals also indicated the number of dead was rising.

Among the dead were several Chinese workers with the Beijing Construction Engineering Group in the central African country, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

The US and Britain expressed their condolences, and several nations, including France and Morocco, sent emergency aid on Monday.

International non-governmental organizations were meanwhile on the scene, among them the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), which has dealt with similar munitions depot explosions in other parts of Africa.

"The suffering and damage caused by these incidents underlines the importance of storing munitions safely and also the importance of providing states with the technical support that can enable them to do so," MAG said in a statement.

Sassou N'Guesso said many residents "had lost their homes and are homeless" in the blasts, which also destroyed shops, offices and parts of a market.

He said the government of the oil-producing nation would do all it could to provide assistance.

Troops have been deployed to guard smashed buildings and shops, and the president said there were reports of looting.

"I want to attract the attention of deviants who are trying to take advantage of the situation," Sassou N'Guesso said. "There will be consequences for their actions."

Following the explosions, officials in Kinshasa rushed to calm residents of the DR Congo capital, as some thought they were happening in the city while others believed a coup might have taken place in the neighbouring country.

A home video posted on YouTube showed buildings shaking and glass shattering in Kinshasa as a result of the blasts.

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