At least 16 people have been killed in a fire at a popular nightclub in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, the government said.
The blaze was caused by fireworks used in the club, it said.
The fire engulfed the main room of Liv’s Night Club in the capital’s upmarket Bastos district, home to embassies and diplomat residences. Authorities said the fire spread to a place where cooking gas was being stored.
“We are still at the level of investigations to find out the names and nationalities of the dead and the wounded,” said government spokesman Rene Emmanuel Sadi on Sunday.
“The tragedy, which was caused by explosions from the fireworks often used in these places, first consumed the building’s ceiling, resulting in two very loud explosions, causing panic and a stampede,” the communications ministry said.
“There were loud explosions from six gas bottles, causing panic in the neighbourhood.” the government statement said, adding that eight others were injured and taken to Yaounde’s Central Hospital.
A security guard present at the time of fire said “it happened very quickly”.
“It was a little after 2am and most customers arrive around 3am … there are many victims,” the security guard said.
The incident comes as the country hosts thousands of football players, fans and match officials from across the continent for the monthlong African Football Cup of Nations tournament.
In a statement, Cameroon President Paul Biya called for calm and assured AFCON players and fans of their safety.
The championship, featuring teams from 24 countries, was originally scheduled for 2021 but then was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In response to a presidential directive, the city police have launched an investigation.
‘I lost my brother’
About 100 people gathered outside the morgue of the military hospital in Yaounde’s Ekounou neighbourhood on Sunday, hoping to find out news of relatives.
“I don’t have any information. I woke up this morning and they told me that my 38-year-old son is dead,” said one woman, who gave her name as Fidele.
“I was waiting for my brother and his friends yesterday evening, but they didn’t arrive. And at around 7am, I received a lot of phone calls asking whether my brother was dead or alive. So I came to the morgue and I identified his body,” said Fidele’s daughter, Claude.
“I’ve lost my little brother,” said Stephane Hamza, 38.
“He was a good, kind boy who has been working in this club for about two months. When I heard about the explosion, I came to the morgue where I was told he was dead.”
In Douala, the economic capital in the south of the country, at least five discos have been partially or completely burned down in accidental fires over the past six years.