At least 20 dead and 600 injured in explosions in Equatorial Guinea
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) – A series of explosions at a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea killed at least 20 people and injured more than 600 others on Sunday, authorities said.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said in a statement read on state television that the explosion was caused by “careless handling of dynamite” in the military barracks located in the Mondong Nkuantoma district of Bata. He said the explosion happened at 4 p.m. local time.
“The impact of the explosion caused damage to almost all the houses and buildings in Bata,” the president said in a statement, in Spanish.
The Defense Ministry issued a statement on Sunday evening indicating that a fire in an arms depot in the barracks had caused the explosion of large caliber ammunition. He said the provisional death toll was 20 dead and 600 injured, adding that the cause of the explosions would be fully investigated.
Previously, the health ministry tweeted that 17 people had been killed and the president’s statement mentioned 15 dead.
Equatorial Guinea, a small West African country of 1.3 million people located south of Cameroon, was a colony of Spain until its independence in 1968.
State television showed a huge plume of smoke rising above the site of the blast as the crowd fled, with many people shouting “we don’t know what happened, but everything happened. is destroyed “.
The Ministry of Health has appealed to blood donors and volunteer health workers to visit Bata Regional Hospital, one of three hospitals treating the injured.
The ministry tweeted that its health workers were treating the injured at the site of the tragedy and at medical facilities, but feared people were still missing under the rubble.
Images on local media seen by the Associated Press show people screaming and crying running through the streets amid the debris and smoke. Roofs of houses were torn off and the wounded were taken to a hospital.
The explosions came as a shock to the oil-rich Central African nation. Foreign Minister Simeón Oyono Esono Angue met with foreign ambassadors and asked for help.
“It is important for us to ask our brother countries for their help in this lamentable situation since we have a health emergency (due to COVID-19) and the tragedy of Bata,” he said.
A doctor on TVGE, who called himself Florentino by first name, said the situation was a “time of crisis” and hospitals were overcrowded. He said a sports center set up for COVID-19 patients would be used to receive minor cases.
Radio Macuto radio station said on Twitter that people were being evacuated within four kilometers of the city because the fumes could be harmful.
After the explosion, the Spanish Embassy in Equatorial Guinea recommended on Twitter that “Spanish nationals stay at home”.
By Sam Mednick and Joseph Wilson