Monday, March 5, 2012

Republic of Congo fire threatens second arms depot; first explosion killed hundreds

BRAZZAVILLE, REPUBLIC OF CONGO—International experts fought Monday to prevent a fire from reaching a second arms depot in the capital of the Republic of Congo, a day after a blaze set off a series of explosions so violent they flattened buildings, killing hundreds and trapping countless others under the falling debris.

Small detonations continued to shake Brazzaville, though the blasts were not nearly as loud as those that had convulsed the city on Sunday, splitting beams, buckling numerous buildings including two churches, and causing windows to explode in a 3-mile (5-kilometre) radius of the depot. Houses trembled as far away as the south of the country, and across the mighty Congo River in the heart of Kinshasa, the capital of the neighbouring Central African nation of Congo.

“For the time being, there are Russian, French and Congolese experts in the field who are trying to put out the fires. Their goal is to avoid that the fires reach a second depot of even heavier weapons,” said Delphin Kibakidi, the spokesman of the local chapter of the Red Cross.

It’s unclear how far the second depot is from the first, with some officials saying it is located in the same army barracks. A large crowd had gathered outside the municipal morgue, which along with a nearby hospital had registered 206 deaths hours after the first blast on Sunday. Read More