Congo blast: Troops recover bodies

2012-03-05 14:03
Brazzaville - Congolese soldiers on Monday began the grim task of recovering bodies from an area of Brazzaville devastated by huge explosions at a munitions depot that left 146 people dead and hundreds injured.

Soldiers combing the wreckage of homes in the Mpila area of the city recovered five bodies shortly after 09:00, an AFP correspondent at the scene said, amid fears there were many more in the densely populated area.

Thousands of people thronged neighbouring streets for news of relatives, and to pick over what remained of their homes.

The stench of decomposing flesh began to drift over the area early Monday as ambulances and hearses lined up to take away the dead.

The accident killed at least 146 people, according to a provisional count released by the authorities late Sunday, a toll which is expected to rise.

One resident told AFP earlier that a church had collapsed while people were inside attending a Sunday service.

A preliminary investigation has blamed a fire sparked by an electrical short-circuit.

Influx of victims

Brazzaville's hospitals have been overwhelmed by the influx of victims, with hundreds of injured crowded into wards and corridors, an AFP reporter said.

Authorities said they would open two churches, a covered market and sports stadiums to house thousands of people left homeless by the disaster.

Neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo said on Monday it was sending a team of 20 medical specialists to Brazzaville, as well as equipment and medication, government spokesperson Lambert Mende told AFP.

France and Morocco said they would send emergency medical aid.

Democratic Republic of Congo Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba and Health Minister Victor Makwenge Kaput will also visit Brazzaville "to express our solidarity and our compassion to our brothers and neighbours", Mende said.

Shockwaves from the explosions blew out windows in buildings in Kinshasa, which lies across the Congo river from Brazzaville.

- SAPA
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