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Republic of Congo explosions kill hundreds

A fire at a weapons depot is blamed for the deaths.

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A man displays a piece of metal from a series of explosions at a munitions depot in Brazzaville on March 4, 2012. (Guy-Gervais Kitina /AFP/Getty Images)

A series of explosions emanating from an ammunitions storage facility in the Republic of Congo killed more than 200 people and injured hundreds more Sunday in Brazzaville, the country’s capital along the Congo River.

The explosions shattered windows, destroyed houses and could be felt miles away, the Financial Times said.

The death toll from Sunday’s explosions was rising, with the Associated Press reporting at least 206 people were killed. Countless others were trapped under collapsed buildings, including a church, AP said.

"Several of the dead have been taken out and I confirm there are more deaths inside," Didier Boutsindi, a representative of the Republic of Congo’s presidential office told AP.

A witness told the AP more than 2,000 people had left their homes in the northern part of Brazzaville where the blasts occurred. Another told the AP the area looked like a tsunami had passed through it. "The quarter has practically collapsed, with roofs of houses blown off," Christine Ibata said.

The explosions started around 8 a.m. local time and continued into the early afternoon, BBC said.

The wounded were lining the corridors of overflowing hospitals, CNN reported. Reuters said the area's morgue had counted 136 bodies by mid afternoon.

Though it has seen coups and civil wars in the past, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s smaller western neighbor has been relatively peaceful for the past decade.

Republic of Congo Defense Minister Charles Zacharie Boawo appeared on national television Sunday, telling residents Sunday’s explosions were caused by a fire at the ammunitions depot and were not an act of war or sign of a coup d’etat.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120304/republic-congo-explosions-kill-hundreds