More than 200 people have been killed in a series of explosions triggered by fire at a munitions depot in the Republic of Congo’s capital Brazzaville, according to a senior official in the presidency, citing hospital sources.
Witnesses and state media said Sunday’s blast occurred during a fire in the arms depot in the Regiment Blinde base in the riverside Mpila neighborhood.
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“I saw someone being carried to hospital with their intestines hanging out. They had been hit by a shell,” one witness told the Reuters news agency as he was leaving the blast zone.
“I experienced the apocalypse,” said Jeanette Nuongui, the soul survivor from a family home that was destroyed in one of the blasts that rocked Brazzaville.
“It is by the grace of God I am here. My mother died, my father, my two brothers and my two sisters also. There’s nothing left,” she added.
Didier Boutsindi of the presidential office said untold numbers of people were trapped in a church that collapsed.
The explosions were heard across the Congo River in Kinshasa, the capital of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The blasts, which began around 8am local time, all occurred within an hour of one another, witnesses said.
“It’s like a tsunami passed through here,” said Christine Ibata, a student.
Charles Zacharie Boawo, the defence minister, appeared on national television 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.