Hundreds killed, trapped in Republic of Congo blasts
Source：the seattle times
Publish Date：2012-03-06 04:22:24
Times Read：930 reads
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A series of explosions at a weapons depot in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo, killed at least 206 people and entombed countless others in crushed structures, including inside two churches that buckled while parishioners were celebrating Mass, officials and witnesses said.
The website Les Depeches de Brazzaville said houses had "collapsed" in the neighborhood, and reported that "panic" had taken hold of neighborhoods in the city. The explosions were powerful enough to destroy windows across the Congo River in Kinshasa, the capital of the larger Central African nation of Congo, witnesses and the U.N.-supported Radio Okapi station in Kinshasa said. Radio Okapi said the Makelele Hospital in Brazzaville was "overflowing" with "severely wounded" victims of the blasts.
The register of a morgue in Brazzaville already had 136 bodies Sunday afternoon, as more continued to arrive.
Residents woke up thinking that either an earthquake had struck, or a coup was under way in this nation that suffered through a 1997 civil war. Defense Minister Charles Zacharie Boawo appeared on national television to urge calm in Brazzaville and Kinshasa.
"The explosions that you have heard don't mean there is a war or a coup d'état," he said. "Nor does it mean there was a mutiny. It is an incident caused by a fire at the munitions depot."
Government spokesman Bienvenu Okyemi blamed a short-circuit for the fire that set off the successive blasts. The explosions began at around 8 a.m. at the depot, which is at the Regiment Blinde tank corps barracks, one of five military camps in Brazzaville.
An official at the president's office said the depot in the capital's densely populated northern neighborhood of Ouenze is used to store war-grade weapons including mortars.
"It's like a tsunami passed through here," said Christine Ibata, a student. "The roofs of houses were blown off."
Among the dead were Chinese workers who were building low-income housing near the depot. China's official Xinhua news agency said six Chinese had been killed and another was missing. It said the victims worked for Beijing Construction Engineering Group, which had about 140 Chinese workers at its construction site when the blasts happened.
Xinhua quoted an official from the Chinese Embassy as saying dozens of Chinese workers were injured in the blasts and some were in serious condition.
The dormitory building of Huawei Technologies, China's largest maker of telecommunications equipment, was also badly damaged, Xinhua said.
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