OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – At least 20 people were killed and more than 600 others injured in a series of explosions in a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said the 4 pm. The explosion was due to the “negligent handling of dynamite” in the military barracks near Mondong Nkuantoma in Bata.
“The effects of the explosion caused damage to almost all houses and buildings in Bata,” the president said in a statement in Spanish.
The Defense Ministry released a statement late Sunday that a fire in a weapons depot in the barracks caused the explosion of high-caliber ammunition. The provisional toll was 20 dead and 600 injured, and the cause of the explosions is being fully investigated.
The country’s president said the fire may have been caused by local residents burning the fields around the barracks.
State television showed a huge cloud of smoke over the site of the explosion as the crowd fled. Many people shouted, “We don’t know what happened, but everything is destroyed.”
Pictures in local media seen by The Associated Press showed people screaming and crying and running through the streets through rubble and smoke. The roofs of the houses were torn down and wounded people were taken to a hospital.
Equatorial Guinea, an African country of 1.3 million people south of Cameroon, was a Spanish colony until it gained independence in 1968. Bata has a population of around 175,000.
The Ministry of Health urged blood donors and volunteer health workers to go to de Bata Regional Hospital, one of three hospitals that treat the wounded.
The ministry said its health workers treated the injured on the scene of the tragedy and in medical facilities, but feared people would still be missing under the rubble.
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 that we ask our brother countries for their help in this deplorable situation as we have a health emergency (due to Covid-19) and the tragedy in Bata,” he said.
A doctor who called TVGE using his first name Florentino said the situation was a “moment of crisis” and that hospitals were overcrowded. He said a sports center for Covid-19 patients would be used to receive smaller cases.
Radio Macuto tweeted that people within four kilometers of the city would be evacuated because the fumes could be harmful.
Following the explosion, the Spanish Embassy in Equatorial Guinea recommended on Twitter that “Spanish nationals stay in their homes”.