206 Dead in Congo Blasts

Explosions rocked munitions depot in Brazzaville
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 4, 2012 11:50 AM CST
206 Dead in Congo Blasts
Injured people are treated in a hospital hallway after multiple explosions occurred at a munitions depot, in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo Sunday, March 4, 2012.   (AP Photo/Elie Mbena)

Blasts rocked the capital of the Republic of Congo this morning after a weapons depot caught fire, officials said, killing at least 206 people and forcing thousands to flee. A morgue in Brazzaville took in 136 bodies this afternoon, as more continued to arrive. A local hospital reported at least 237 patients wounded in the blasts. Today's blasts flattened buildings and shattered windows in the northern part of Brazzaville and sent more than 2,000 fleeing their homes. The munitions depot is near the president's private residence, but he was at his official residence in another part of town and was not hurt. President Denis Sassou-Nguesso later visited the morgue, a hospital and the military hospital. He did not speak publicly.

The explosions echoed across the Congo River to Kinshasa, the capital of neighboring Congo. Residents there reported seeing plumes of smoke and feeling buildings shake. Residents in Brazzaville described the scene as "apocalyptic." Twisted sheets of metal—some of them formerly walls or roofs—littered the streets. A hospital examination room lay in ruins. "It's like a tsunami passed through here," said student Christine Ibata. Defense minister Charles Zacharie Boawo appeared on national television to urge calm in Brazzaville, saying, "the explosions you have heard don't mean there is a war or a coup d'etat. It is an incident caused by a fire at the munitions depot." (More Congolese stories.)

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