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Scores dead in Congo munitions depot blasts

At least 100 people killed in explosions in the Republic of Congo capital of Brazzaville, say officials and witnesses

Aj Jazeera March 4, 2012

At least 100 people have died in a series of explosions triggered by fire at a munitions depot in the Republic of Congo capital of Brazzaville, officials and witnesses said.

There are reports that the death toll in Sunday’s incident could be twice that amount.

An official from the Republic of Congo presidency quoted by the Reuters news agency said as many as 200 people were killed.

“We count at least 150 dead in the military hospitals and around 1,500 injured, some of them seriously,” said a European diplomat when contacted by telephone from Paris.

At least three strong explosions rocked the city on Sunday, sending up a plume of smoke that could be seen miles away across the Congo River in neighbouring Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The blasts, which began around 8am local time, all occurred within an hour of one another, witnesses said.

It was not clear how the fire at the munitions depot started.

Charles Zacharie Boawo, the defence minister, appeared on national television on Sunday to urge calm in Brazzaville.

“The explosions that you have heard don’t mean there is a war or a coup d’etat,” he said.

“Nor does it mean there was a mutiny. It is an incident caused by a fire at the munitions depot … At this very moment our experts are there trying to extinguish this fire so this situation does not recur.”

Witnesses said the explosions came from the north of the city and that the impact of the blasts threw open doors of houses in the city centre.

The explosions triggered panic in Kinshasa, but DRC state television urged residents to remain calm.

Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the DRC government, said he had spoken to officials in Brazzaville, who told him there was an accident at a munitions depot near the city’s Hilton Hotel

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March 4, 2012 - Posted by | Africa, Bomb Disposal, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Safety and Security Issues | , , , ,

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