A series of explosions at an ammunition depot killed 123 people and wounded hundreds more in in Brazzaville, the capital of Africa’s Republic of Congo, Congolese officials said.
The explosions occurred shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday (2 a.m. ET) when a fire at the depot set off a cache of tank shells, said Betu Bangana, director of protocol for President Denis Sassou-Nguesso. Bangana said 123 people had been confirmed dead by Sunday evening, and many bodies may be « unfindable. »
The blasts destroyed numerous homes in the neighborhoods surrounding the installation, Bangana said. James Jeffers, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville, said American diplomats had seen hundreds of injured being treated in local hospitals.
The cause of the fire was not confirmed Sunday, but authorities are treating it as accidental, Bangana said.
The force of the explosions broke windows up to 5 km (3 miles) away in Kinshasa, the capital of the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC’s military responded by putting tanks and troops on the streets and the banks of the Congo River, which separates the two cities, until it became clear that no attack on the capital was under way.