A series of blasts at a weapons depot rocked the capital of the Republic of Congo today killing atleast 206 people and trapping countless others underneath collapsed buildings.
Those in Brazzaville described the scene as ‘apocalyptic’ as twisted sheets of metal littered the streets while churches, hospitals and homes were left in ruins.
Didier Boutsindi, a government official of the central African country, said untold numbers of people were trapped in St. Louis church, which collapsed after the explosions, while a hospital examination room was razed to the ground.
Treatment: A hospital in Brazzaville is packed with people injured after explosions rocked the city today
A morgue in the city reported to have taken in at least 136 bodies this afternoon, as more continued to arrive, while a hospital reported at least 237 patients wounded in the blasts.
‘Several of the dead have been taken out and I confirm there are more deaths inside.
‘My uncle is among the people killed.
‘He was killed by the collapse of his house as he slept.’
Plumes of smoke could be seen billowing from the weapons depot from as far away as Kinshasa, more than six miles away
The blasts flattened buildings and shattered windows in the northern part of Brazzaville and sent more than 2,000 fleeing their homes.
The explosions echoed across the Congo River to Kinshasa, the capital of neighboring Congo, which is some 6 miles away.
People there reported seeing plumes of smoke and feeling buildings shake.
Twisted sheets of metal – some of them formerly walls or roofs – littered the streets and witnesses said the impact of the blasts threw open doors of houses in the city center.
‘It’s like a tsunami passed through here,’ said student Christine Ibata.
‘The quarter has practically collapsed, with roofs of houses blown off.’
Patients crowded into hospitals, some with torn clothes and suffering from shock, and some lay on the floor as medics struggled to treat the crowd.
Another explosion struck the area early in the afternoon, causing panic among those gathered there, including journalists.
Other witnesses said the wounded may have included hundreds of Chinese workers.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Chinese embassy officials as saying three Chinese workers were killed and dozens were injured in the explosions.
It said that Duan Jinzhu, political counselor at the embassy, had confirmed the deaths.
It is not known if the three workers were included in the morgue and hospital’s counts.
Xinhua said the dormitory building of Huawei Technologies Ltd, China’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment, was badly damaged, although no casualties were reported.
They also said the windows of the Xinhua bureau were shattered.
Defence minister Charles Zacharie Boawo appeared on national television to urge calm in Brazzaville and in the neighboring capital of Kinshasa.
He said: ‘The explosions that you have heard don’t mean there is a war or a coup d’etat.
‘Nor does it mean there was a mutiny. It is an incident caused by a fire at the munitions depot.’
Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said the blasts blew out some windows in the center of Kinshasa, but that there were no reported deaths.