Huge blasts in Equatorial Guinea’s Bata kill more than 98 people, more than 600 injured; requests for urgent blood donations
98 people have been killed and more than 600 injured in a series of powerful explosions at a military base in Equatorial Guinea’s largest city of Bata, according to officials. In a statement on national television, President Teodoro Obiang said the blasts on Sunday were caused by negligence of a military unit “in charge of storing explosives, dynamite and ammunition at the Nkoa Ntoma military camp”. Obiang, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979, said the explosives caught fire due to “stubble-burning by farmers in their fields” and that the blasts caused damage in almost all the houses and buildings in Bata. The defence ministry said at least 98 people were killed and some 600 people injured.
Teams including volunteers continue to search the wreckage of buildings and homes for victims. Three young children were found alive and taken to hospital. Local media showed a row of covered bodies along a street.
There are fears the death toll could rise further as some victims may still be trapped.
Local television showed groups of people pulling bodies from piles of rubble, some of which were carried away wrapped in bedsheets. There were also media appeals for people to donate blood, saying hospitals are overwhelmed.
Pick-up trucks filled with survivors, many of whom were children, drove up to the front of a local hospital where some victims were filmed lying on the floor.
In the blast area, iron roofs were ripped off half-destroyed houses and lay twisted amid the rubble. Only a wall or two remained of most houses. People ran in all directions, many of them screaming.
Equatorial Guinea is a small country of some 1,4 million, with the majority of the population living in poverty despite rich oil reserves.
Obiang Nguema issued a plea for international aid, saying that the disaster comes at an already difficult time for Equatorial Guinea, “due to the economic crisis caused by falling petrol prices and the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Obiang’s son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, vice president with responsibility for defence and security, appeared in the television footage at the scene inspecting the damage, accompanied by his Israeli bodyguards. Teodorin, as he is known, is increasingly seen as the designated successor of the 78-year-old president.
Source: Aljazeera, BBC