MALABO, 11 March 2021 – The government of Equatorial Guinea says the death toll from Sunday’s series of explosions at a military base in Bata has risen to 105.
Some 615 people were injured in the explosions which rocked the Nkoantoma military base in the mainland city of Bata, close to the country’s border with neighboring Cameroon.
The base houses special forces, gendarmes and their families and the bulk of the victims are either soldiers or members of their families.
Equatorial Guinea’s government declared three days of national mourning for the victims, beginning Wednesday.
The authorities also declared Bata an “area of catastrophe” saying it has activated urgent measures to help those affected by the blasts.
State television TVGE updated the number of dead to 105 people killed, following operations by search and rescue teams which discovered the charred remains of more victims, raising the death toll from 98 to 105.
TVGE praised the heroism of rescue workers, crediting them with finding and pulling from the ruins, more than 60 survivors, including two children, aged three and four.
Images of the base and neighboring residences aired Monday by TVGE are akin to a war zone, with smoking ruins stretching as far as the eye can see, with houses flattened and roofs ripped off as if by a tropical storm.
Almost all buildings and homes in the city suffered “huge damage”, Equato-Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbazogo said Monday in a statement broadcast by TVGE.
The explosions tore down buildings at the military base as well as residences housing civilians in the immediate vicinity of the camp.
On Thursday, Obiang Nguema Mbazogo levied blame, anew, on the military for “negligence” in storing ammunition so close to residential areas.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for an independent probe into the explosions.
The singular focus of the leader on the military is seen by observers as dismissing earlier claims by the military, relayed by the presidency, that stubble-hunting by local farmers was somehow to blame for setting off the explosions.
More than 200 people remain hospitalized in hospitals across Bata that are described as completely overwhelmed.
Over 100 of those injured are described as being in very critical condition, adding to fears that the death toll may rise.
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, leading to an updated death toll of 98 on Wednesday.
It remained unclear Thursday, how many people are still missing or unaccounted for.