Explosions at Congo Weapons Depot Kill Scores

DAKAR, Senegal — A series of explosions at a weapons depot in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, killed scores of people on Sunday, according to Congolese Web sites and news agency dispatches.

A man was treated at a hospital on Sunday after multiple explosions occurred at a munitions depot in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. Witness described collapsed houses and panic in the streets.

The Web site Les Dépêches de Brazzaville spoke of 150 dead, said houses had “collapsed” in the neighborhood and reported that “panic” had taken hold of neighborhoods in the city. The Associated Press said that the number of dead was at least 206 and reported that countless others were trapped in the ruins of collapsed buildings.

Officials at the American Embassy in Brazzaville reported seeing “hundreds of injured” at hospitals, according to a statement from the embassy. The explosions were powerful enough to destroy windows across the river in Kinshasa in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, said witnesses and the United Nations-supported station Radio Okapi in Kinshasa. Radio Okapi said the Makelele Hospital in Brazzaville was “overflowing” with “severely wounded” victims of the blasts.

Didier Boutsindi of the presidential office told The A.P. that an untold number of people were trapped in St. Louis church, which collapsed.

“Many of the faithful are trapped in the debris of the church,” he said. “Several of the dead have been taken out, and I confirm there are more deaths inside.”

The explosions began around 8 a.m. and were apparently caused by a fire at the depot, which is at the Regiment Blindé military barracks in Brazzaville, according to the embassy statement. The explosions destroyed and damaged homes in the neighborhoods around the barracks, the embassy said.

The explosions were “very powerful,” according to the Congolese Web site mwinda.org, which spoke of “several hundred” dead along with “substantial” physical destruction. The Web site quoted the minister of defense, Charles Zacharie Bowao, as apologizing on the television station Télé Congo for the “inconvenience,” and blaming an “unfortunate fire” for the explosions. He asserted that the explosions were not due to a “coup d’état” or a “mutiny.”

Source: The New York Times

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