Huge explosions in Equatorial Guinea’s Bata kill 17, wound 400
At least 17 people have been killed and more than 400 wounded in a series of powerful explosions at a military base in Equatorial Guinea’s largest city of Bata, according to the country’s health ministry.
The cause of the blasts on Sunday was not immediately clear. Early reports suggested they might have come from the armoury, according to a journalist with the local TV
The health ministry said on Twitter there were 17 deaths, while the number of wounded people stood at 420.
“We hear the explosion and we see the smoke, but we don’t know what’s going on,” a local resident named Teodoro Nguema told the AFP news agency by telephone.
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 has been ruled by 78-year-old President Teodoro Obiang Nguema for nearly 42 years.
His 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, according to AFP.
Teodorin, as he is known, is increasingly seen as the president’s designated successor.
After the blast, the Spanish embassy in the capital, Malabo, requested its nationals to remain at home. “Following developments in Equatorial Guinea with concern after the explosions in the city of Bata,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya on Twitter.
Separately, the French ambassador in Equatorial Guinea, Brochenin Olivier, expressed his “condolences for the catastrophe that has just occurred in Bata”.
Bata is home to about 800,000 of the 1.4 million people living in the oil- and gas-rich country – most of them in poverty. While Bata sits on the mainland, Malabo is on Bioko, one of the country’s islands off the West African coast.
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