Arms dump explosion in Congo kills 200

Mon, Mar 5, 2012, 00:00

ABOUT 200 people were killed yesterday when an arms dump exploded in Brazzaville, Kinshasa,ripping apart a nearby neighbourhood in the Congo Republics capital, medical and local authorities said.

Around 200 more were injured by the blasts, which rocked the riverside capital at around 8am, flattening houses near the scene and sending a plume of smoke high above the city.

A nearby church, packed with worshippers, collapsed, said one witness.

Corpses, many burned or missing body parts, were carried into the main city hospital morgue, said a reporter outside the building.

Officials there said they had already counted 136 bodies by mid-afternoon. Weeping relatives of the dead gathered outside the hospital to mourn while others came to look for family members who had scattered in the chaos.

An adviser in the president’s office, Betu Bangana, said: “According to sources at the central hospital we’re talking of around 200 dead and many injured.

Some people are still [trapped] in their houses. They’re saying the entire neighbourhood of Mpila has been destroyed.”

Panic spread to Kinshasa, 4km across the Congo river, which separates the former French colony of the Republic of Congo from the larger Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony.

The blast was so strong it shattered windows in the neighbouring city.

Both governments called for calm. Congo Republic defence minister Charles Zacharie Bowao quickly dismissed any talk of a coup attempt or mutiny, and told state radio the explosions were the result of a fire in the arms depot at the Régiment Blindé base near the city centre.

China’s Xinhua news agency cited Chinese officials as saying three Chinese construction workers were killed in the explosion and dozens injured, some in a serious condition.

They were part of a group of about 140 Chinese workers from the Beijing Construction Engineering Group. – (Reuters)