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Africa
Mozambique blasts death toll rises
At least 96 confirmed dead in arms depot explosion as clear-up begins.
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2007 12:55 GMT
Unexploded munitions are being cleared from residential areas [AFP]
Mozambique has begun three days of national mourning after an explosion at an arms depot in the capital left at least 96 people dead and more than 400 injured, many of them children.
 
Officials said on Saturday that the death toll from Thursday's explosion would probably rise as rescuers continued search the rubble for survivors.
"Once we have recovered all the bodies, the number of deaths could pass 100," Enneas Comiche, the head of the Maputo municipal council, said.
 
Armando Guebuza, the president, has appointed an independent commission of inquiry into the blasts, a government spokesman said.
Munitions at the country's largest arms depot exploded on late on Thursday, landing on nearby poor neighborhoods, starting fires and causing residents to flee in panic.
 
"The defence ministry along with the city of Maputo is distributing leaflets to the families of the victims in order to organise the funerals," said a spokesman for the presidency, Estefanio Muholove.
 
He added that soldiers were going through the areas near the depot to collect the munitions that had not exploded.
 
Horrific injuries
 
Leila Pakkala, the UN children's fund representative in Mozambique, warned of the danger to children from the undetonated munitions.
 
"Experience in similar situations has shown that children in particular are in danger of being injured by playing with arms and mortars that have exploded," she said in a statement.
 
About 20 tonnes of obsolete arms and munitions dating from the country's 1976-1992 civil war had been stockpiled in the depot, set to be destroyed.
 
Luisa Diogo, Mozambique's prime minister, visited the injured in hospital on Saturday morning, local radio reported.
 
Most of the injured - many of them children - had limbs amputated, while others suffered head injuries and severe burns, according to doctors at Maputo hospitals.
 
The government says the blasts were triggered by high temperatures of up to 38c.
Source:
Agencies
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