Blast at Brazzaville arms depot kills hundreds

Mon Mar 5, 2012 6:17am GMT

By Christian Tsoumou and Jonny Hogg

BRAZZAVILLE/KINSHASA (Reuters) - Up to 200 people were killed on Sunday when an arms dump exploded in Brazzaville, ripping apart a nearby neighbourhood in the Congo Republic's capital, medical and local authorities said.

Hundreds of others were injured by the blasts which rocked the riverside capital around 8 a.m. (0700 GMT), flattening houses near the scene and sending a plume of smoke high above the city.

A government spokesman said that a short circuit was to blame for the fire that sparked the explosions and promised to move military barracks out of town as a result.

But witnesses reported scenes of carnage on Sunday.

"I saw someone being carried to hospital with their intestines hanging out. They had been hit by a shell," one witness told Reuters as he was leaving the blast zone.

A nearby church, packed with worshippers, collapsed, said one witness.

Corpses, many burned or with missing body parts, were carried into the main city hospital morgue, said a Reuters reporter outside the building. Officials there said they had already counted 136 bodies by mid afternoon.

Many more corpses littered the blast scene, said one soldier. Others are believed to be trapped under houses and other buildings that collapsed during the explosions.   Continued...

Smoke from across the river in neighbouring Republic of Congo's capital Brazzaville as seen above the skyline of Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, after explosions at an arms dump, March 4, 2012.   REUTERS/Jonny Hogg
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