More Blasts, Fires Reported at Arms Depot in Republic of Congo

Posted March 5th, 2012 at 9:40 am (UTC-5)
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Emergency crews in the Republic of Congo are trying to prevent more fires and blasts at an arms depot, where officials say explosions on Sunday killed an estimated 200 people.

Witnesses reported a series of smaller blasts and fires at the munitions site in the capital, Brazzaville, early Monday. But army spokesman Colonel Robert Obargui assured residents the situation was “under control.”

Government officials suspect a short circuit sparked a fire at the depot on Sunday, setting off a series of powerful blasts. The explosions flattened homes and buildings, trapping many people under debris and rubble.

Thousands of residents crowded city streets on Monday, prompting President Denis Sassou-Nguesso to urge them to return to their homes.

“We will face this. We are trying to organize ourselves. I am asking the population to show courage and solidarity,” he said.

Mr. Sassou-Nguesso also appeared on state television visiting with patients at a crowded hospital.

The government has not released an official casualty toll, but hospital officials and diplomats say about 200 people have been killed and hundreds more injured.

Diplomats from the United States and France have met with Congolese officials to offer help with the rescue efforts.