Government puts Congo blasts toll at 180

Efforts under way to stop fire from spreading, a day after explosions in Brazzaville arms depot.

    The death toll in a blaze that set off a series of explosions in Brazzaville came to 180, with 1,340 casualties, according to the country's health minister.

    Georges Moyen told journalists on Tuesday that while it was still difficult to ascertain the exact number of deaths in Sunday's explosions, 180 people had been counted dead.

    "It's difficult to say, but there are 180 dead in the morgues," he said.

    Hundreds of people were killed and countless others were trapped under the falling debris after a series of large explosions at a munitions depot devastated the Mpila district in the east of the capital early Sunday.

    About 3,000 people have also been left homeless following the explosions.

    Cause of explosions

    The government said at the time that an electrical short-circuit had probably caused the fire that led to the blasts.

    "There are Russian, French and Congolese experts in the field who are trying to put out the fires. Their goal is to avoid that the fires reach a second depot of even heavier weapons,'' Delphin Kibakidi, spokesman for the local chapter of the Red Cross, said at the time.

    Scores dead in Congo explosions

    Raymond Mboulou, the country's interior minister, speaking to AFP on Sunday described the scenes of devastation in the streets surrounding the military barracks "like a tsunami without water".

    On Monday, small explosions continued to shake Brazzaville, though the blasts were not nearly as loud as those that had convulsed the city the day before, splitting beams, destroying numerous buildings including two churches, and causing windows to shatter in a five kilometre radius of the depot.

    Health Minister Moyen's comments on Tuesday came during a visit to the university hospital in the capital, where medical tents have been set up outside the building to cope with the influx of victims.

    Some of the injured were also being treated in hospital corridors for lack of ward space.

    International aid

    International aid for the victims has arrived from France, Morocco and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, following an appeal by the government in Brazzaville.

    "The greatest needs are in orthopedics," said Moyen.

    A plane carrying a 25-person medical emergency unit and five tonnes of material from France arrived in the early hours of Tuesday.

    Morocco sent a 173-person contingent, including 20 doctors and 16 nurses.

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

    SOURCE: Agencies


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