Witnesses said a military munitions depot near the Congo river in Brazzaville caught fire [AFP]
More than 100 people have been killed in a series of explosions at a munitions depot in the Republic of Congo’s capital Brazzaville, the interior minister said.
« There are more than 100 dead. The injured are difficult to enumerate for the moment, » Raymond Mboulou said by telephone, citing civilian and military hospital sources after a European diplomat said at least 150 people died.
Didier Boutsindi of the presidential office said untold numbers of people were trapped in a church that collapsed.
The explosions were heard across the Congo River in Kinshasa, the capital of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The blasts, which began around 8am local time, all occurred within an hour of one another, witnesses said, but the cause of the fire was not clear.
« It’s like a tsunami passed through here, » said Christine Ibata, a student.
Charles Zacharie Boawo, the defence minister, appeared on national television on Sunday to urge calm in Brazzaville.
« The explosions that you have heard don’t mean there is a war or a coup d’etat, » he said.
« Nor does it mean there was a mutiny. It is an incident caused by a fire at the munitions depot … At this very moment our experts are there trying to extinguish this fire so this situation does not recur. »
Witnesses said the explosions came from the north of the city and that the impact of the blasts threw open doors of houses in the city centre.
The explosions triggered panic in Kinshasa, but DRC state television urged residents to remain calm.
Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the DRC government, said he had spoken to officials in Brazzaville, who told him there was an accident at a munitions depot near the city’s Hilton Hotel.