A fire inside a weapons depot set off a series of explosions so violent that they flattened houses, businesses and churches, killing hundreds and trapping countless others under the falling debris.
Bomb blasts shake Republic of Congo capital for a second day
BRAZZAVILLE // Small detonations shook the capital of the Republic of Congo for a second day yesterday, after a fire inside a weapons depot set off a series of explosions so violent that they flattened houses, businesses and churches, killing hundreds and trapping countless others under the falling debris.
Firefighters had put out the main blaze in the north of Brazzaville, and were working to extinguish several smaller fires that were still burning yesterday.
A large crowd had gathered outside the municipal morgue, which along with a nearby hospital had registered 206 deaths in the hours after the first blast on Sunday.
In a two-hour stretch yesterday, another seven bodies were brought in to the morgue, bringing the death toll to at least 213. That number is expected to rise as rescuers begin clearing the debris including from St Louis Catholic Church where dozens of worshippers were attending Mass when the building buckled under the force of the blast.
The government spokesman Bienvenu Okyemi blamed a short circuit for the fire that set off the blasts.
President Denis Sassou-Nguesso described the ordeal as "a tragic accident". And the country's defence minister rushed to reassure people in this nation, which is still recovering from a 1997 civil war, that the fire was not a sign of a coup or a mutiny.