Authorities in Congo are blaming an electrical fault for a series of massive blasts at an arms depot that killed at least 146 people in the capital Brazzaville, Agence France Presse reported.
Rescuers in Brazzaville were today searching for survivors, amid fears the death toll could rise – with the Associated Press reporting 206 fatalities.
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A curfew has been declared and an exclusion zone has been set up around the site, at the Mpila military barracks, in the east of the city.
The BBC reported that as many as 1,500 people were hurt in the explosions, which began early Sunday and continued into the afternoon.
The blasts also shattered windows in Kinshasa, which lies across the Congo River in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Several media organizations reported panic following the blasts, which caused widespread destruction and completely destroyed several houses.
The streets of Brazzaville were littered with debris and what the BBC described as “twisted sheets of metal.”
Dozens of people were trapped when a Catholic church close to the barracks collapsed after the explosions went off during Sunday morning mass.
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At an emergency cabinet meeting early today, the government issued a plea to international organisations to help the victims, AFP reported.
Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso visited two Brazzaville hospitals where victims are being treated, and urged the Congolese people "to show courage and solidarity."