Day of mourning in Brazzaville after deadly explosions | News | DW | 07.03.2012
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Day of mourning in Brazzaville after deadly explosions

The death toll in a series of explosions at a munitions depot in the Republic of Congo's capital has breached 200 and left thousands more homeless or wounded, while fears of remaining explosives hinder aid efforts.

The Republic of Congo held a national day of mourning on Wednesday for the victims of a deadly series of explosions at a weapons depot in the capital that killed more than 200 people and left thousands wounded or homeless.

The explosions at the Mpila barracks in the east of Brazzaville early on Monday were blamed on a short-circuit fire that set off a number of rockets and mortars. Fires continued to burn into Tuesday night, although officials said the remaining fires were under control.

State radio has reported the death toll was at least 246, while government officials said it was "close to 200." More than 1,300 were wounded and 5,000 made homeless.

Recovery of any victims in the area was hindered by fears of remaining live explosives, and the Mines Advisory Group said there were five more explosions on Tuesday.

"Our first-aid workers are currently unable to approach the ammunition store in Mpila, where the blasts occurred, because we fear that some devices may not have exploded," said Christian Sedar Ndinga, the president of the Congolese Red Cross. "We are hopeful that we will soon be able to recover bodies and any injured people who may be there."

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso described the disaster as "a tragic accident." The defense minister quickly made a statement on TV after the explosions saying that it was not a coup or mutiny, in a country that for years suffered from coups and a civil war in 1997.

acb/pfd (AP, AFP)