On Sunday, a series of blasts at a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea killed at least 20 people and injured more than 600 others, according to officials. The explosion caused damage to nearly all of Bata’s houses and offices.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said the explosions were blamed on fires sparked by farmers living near the military base, as well as the careless handling of dynamite stocks by the military unit guarding them.
The Defence Ministry has stated that the explosion of high-caliber ammunition was triggered by a fire at a weapons depot in the barracks. It said the preliminary death toll was 20 people killed and 600 people wounded, and that the cause of the blasts will be thoroughly investigated. Officials have also been forced to use refrigerated containers to store bodies.
According to the country’s president, the fire may have been started by residents burning the fields surrounding the barracks. As crowds fled, a massive plume of smoke rose over the explosion site, prompting many to exclaim, “We don’t know what happened, but it’s all destroyed.”
Photos on local media show people screaming and weeping as they run through the streets, surrounded by rubble and smoke. House roofs were ripped off, and injured people were being taken to a hospital. Since a series of blasts destroyed most of Equatorial Guinea’s largest city and sent thousands fleeing for the countryside, callers seeking the parents of missing children have been dialing into radio and television programs on a regular basis.
Earlier, the Health Ministry tweeted that 17 people were killed, while the president’s statement said that 15 people were killed. The Health Ministry demanded that blood donors and volunteer health workers come to the Regional Hospital de Bata, one of three hospitals that treat the injured. The ministry said its health staff was treating the wounded at the scene of the disaster and in medical centers, but it was still possible that people were still missing under the rubble.
The explosions came as a surprise to the oil-rich Central African nation. Simeón Oyono Esono Angue, Foreign Minister, met with foreign ambassadors and requested assistance. “It is vital that we ask our brother countries for assistance in this tragic situation because we have a health emergency, due to COVID-19, and a disaster in Bata,” he said.
Florentino, a doctor who called into TVGE, said the situation was in a “crisis” and that the hospitals were overcrowded. He mentioned that minor cases will be received at a sports center set up for Covid-19 patients. According to Radio Macuto, people are being evacuated within four kilometers of the city because the fumes may be toxic. Following the explosion, the Spanish Embassy in Equatorial Guinea advised “Spanish citizens to remain in their homes” on Twitter.
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