MALABO, 8 March 2021 – At least 98 people have been killed and 615 others injured in a series of explosions at a military base, officials in Equatorial Guinea confirmed Monday.
The explosions occurred at the Nkoantoma military base in the mainland city of Bata, close to the border with neighboring Cameroon.
At the close of the day Monday, some 299 people were still in hospitals in the town, with scores of those hospitalized said to be in critical condition.
The explosions went off over a period of several hours on Sunday, according to eyewitnesses and survivors.
An earlier death toll Monday had put the initial number of fatalities at 31.
A search through the wreckage of destroyed homes turned up the mortal remains of more victims in the course of the day Monday.
Described as extremely powerful, the explosions tore down homes and buildings.
The roofs of several buildings in the immediate vicinity of the military base where the explosions went off were ripped off and debris was scattered over hundreds of meters.
One of the most important piece of good news Monday was the discovery and rescue of three young children from the rubble of a shattered home.
The country’s health ministry said hospitals were overwhelmed, urging fellow citizens who could to donate blood and encouraging doctors and other medical staff who were off duty at the time to report for work.
In a series of tweets, the health ministry called for volunteer health workers to go to and help out at the Bata Regional Hospital where a majority of the injured were hospitalized,s ome on bare floors of the hospital.
Officials attributed the cause of the explosions to an accident at a military base in Bata.
The health ministry promised that mental health teams were also being deployed to help victims..
A statement by Equato-Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema accused those in charge of storing dynamite at the military base of negligence.
The statement, broadcast Monday by state television, was the first official explaination to the population of what had happened.
Almost all buildings and homes in the city suffered “huge damage”, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said.
The Equato-Guinean leader called on international partners to provide assistance.
The country’s only opposition party, the CPDS, joined in the appeal to Spain, France and the United States for help, describing the blasts as “the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in the history of Equatorial Guinea”.
The government pleaded with international partners to send rescue teams, medical staff and medicines.
Spain’s foreign affairs minister Arancha Gonzalez on Monday tweeted that Madrid would help, adding that the Spanish government would “proceed with the immediate dispiatch of a shipment of humanitarian aid”.
Officials also blamed stubble burning by nearby farmers for starting the fires that led to the series of explosions.
Video shot on the site of the explosions showed hundreds of people making a way through the rubble of torn down homes and buildings from which smoke was bellowing almost all day long on Monday.
It remained uncelar at the close of business Monday just how many people were still missing, were buried in the rubble of the torn down homes and buildings or were dead and not yet accounted for.