Sunday, March 4, 2012

Congo Arms Depot Explosions: At least 200 killed, hundreds critically injured

BRAZAVILLE, Congo (Mon, Mar. 05) – At least 200 people were killed and scores were wounded yesterday after a series of mysterious blasts in an ammunition depot in Brazzaville, slitting apart a close by area in the Congo Republic's capital, medical and local authorities said.

Congo Arms Depot Explosions: At least 200 killed, hundreds critically injured
According to authorities short circuit might be the most probable cause of the blasts which astounded the riverside capital around 8 am local time, demolishing a lot of houses near the blasts’ spot and sending a trail of smoke high above the city.

A nearby church, crowded with worshippers, also destroyed by the disaster, said one witness.

Dead bodies, many burned or with missing body parts, were shifted to the main city hospital morgue and the official count has already crossed 136, officials said.

Mr Betu Bangana, an adviser in the president's office, told Reuters earlier in the day that around 200 people had been killed before later revising the estimate down to 120.

"Some people are still trapped in their houses. They're saying the entire neighborhood of Mpila has been destroyed."

Panic spread to Kinshasa, 4 km across the Congo River, which separates the former French colony of Congo Republic from the larger Democratic Republic of Congo. The blast was so strong it shattered windows in the neighbouring city.

Both governments called for calm.

Congo Republic Defence Minister Charles Zacharie Bowao quickly dismissed any talk of a coup attempt or mutiny, and told state radio the explosions were the result of a fire in the arms depot at the Regiment Blinde base near the city centre.

Oil-producing Congo Republic has suffered coups and a civil war since independence from France in 1960. However it has remained largely peaceful since President Denis Sassou-Nguesso took power in a coup in 1997.

Presidential adviser Bangana said Mr Sassou-Nguesso had not been injured by the explosions.

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