Mass Burial For Congolese Explosion Victims


BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (AP) — A nation in mourning will bury the more than 200 victims of last weekend’s deadly blasts at a military armory in a mass funeral Saturday, state radio in the Republic of Congo reported Thursday.

Firmin Ayessa, chief of staff for President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, announced on state radio that the burials will take place at Brazzaville’s main cemetery and said that the “government will always remain at the side of the families of the victims.”

At least 246 people have been killed in the series of explosions that started Sunday morning, when the capital’s main arms depots caught fire, catapulting rockets, mortars, shells and other ordnance into a busy residential district. The last detonations were heard Tuesday morning.

The blasts and fires they ignited prevented any coordinated rescue effort. The toll has been taken from bodies at the morgue of the main hospital, mostly transported there by the families themselves.

It’s not known how many more victims are buried in a wasteland of collapsed concrete and twisted metal covering square mile (2.6 square kilometers) from the epicenter of the blasts, an armory of war-grade weaponry at the barracks of a tank regiment. The British-based Mines Advisory Group said it appeared all three munitions depots at that military camp blew up.

The explosions and shockwaves flattened homes, churches, businesses and government buildings.

“God, have pity on me. What will become of me without my husband? Why, Lord?” wept 26-year-old Gisele Nseka outside the municipal morgue where she had gone to search for his body.

Crowds gathered Thursday at the morgue and the main hospital, looking for relatives killed or injured.

State radio has put the toll at least 246 dead, 1,340 injured and 5,000 homeless.

Mines Advisory Group warned after an inspection Wednesday that there still is danger from unexploded rockets and mortars kicked out by the blasts.

“Much of the content of the munitions depot has been spread out over the city,” said team leader Lionel Cattaneo. “This level of contamination is a huge risk to the public — these are deadly items in a potentially unstable condition.”

The group said unplanned explosions at munitions sites are an increasing phenomenon, with more than 50 explosions in 34 countries since 2009. Many are in developing countries that store munitions in cheap or unsafe buildings, and in countries where conflicts have ended and munitions are aging.

In coup-prone countries, it’s common to have a barracks and munitions depot in populated cities. Brazzaville, a small city of 1.3 million, has at least five such camps.

Sunday’s blast, which the government blamed on a short circuit that ignited a fire, is not the first explosion at the tank regiment’s armory. The government had promised to move the depot outside the city after an earlier, non-lethal blast in 2009. Many now say they feel betrayed.

“For years we have told the government that we can’t put a military camp 100 yards (90 meters) from people’s homes,” said 65-year-old retiree Louis Okouli, whose house looks like it was hit by a cyclone.

The government announced a period of national mourning and again promised to move all arms depots outside the city.


Associated Press writers Louis Okamba and Saleh Mwanamilongo contributed to this report.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments are not enabled for this story.