Congo: Morticians stack bodies 2 to a tray

2012-03-06 18:52
Brazzaville - Morticians stacked bodies two to a tray at Brazzaville's main morgue on Tuesday as the death toll rose to at least 236 from a conflagration at an armoury that catapulted shells, rockets and other munitions into a densely populated area of the capital of the Republic of Congo.

Police said international firefighters had brought the main blaze under control by Tuesday morning, and prevented it spreading to a second munitions depot just 100m away. The second depot contains even heavier-caliber weapons, including Stalin's Organ multiple rocket launchers, a military source said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters.

It still was unclear whether rescue efforts could start in earnest on Tuesday, more than 48 hours after the blasts. The military source said there were plans for the controlled destruction of the munitions in the second depot, which likely will delay any attempts to dig into the rubble to find possible survivors or bodies.

There are fears that undetonated munitions have been catapulted kilometres away by the blasts, and that the many small fires ignited could suck away oxygen needed by any entombed survivors.

At the morgue of the city's main Central University Hospital, funeral services director Ferdinand Malembo Milandou said on national television that they had run out of space.

"We've been forced to place two bodies in each rack," he said from the morgue that has the capacity to hold 126 corpses.

National radio reported that morgue was holding 236 bodies.

That did not appear to include 70 bodies at the morgue of the capital's military hospital, reported to the AP on Sunday by a doctor who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the press. Adding those corpses would bring the toll to more than 300 dead.

Tuesday morning state television broadcast the first images from the off-limits disaster zone, indicating all buildings within a half-kilometre of the military camp of a tank regiment were completely flattened by the explosions, including three schools and two churches where dozens were praying.

National TV also showed images of earth-moving equipment removing rubble and several ambulances being filled with newly discovered corpses.

- SAPA
Read more on:    congo  |  central africa
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