Congo broadens cordon around blast site

2012-03-08 22:35

Brazzaville - Congo's army on Thursday widened a safety zone around the site of the weekend arms dump explosions that killed nearly 200 people amid reports that experts had begun work to make the area safe.

Troops at the edge of the zone were preventing local people who had been allowed in the previous day from passing.

One soldier on duty told AFP the cordon had been expanded while experts had begun tackling the munitions still unexploded after Sunday's devastating blasts. This information could not immediately be officially confirmed.

The series of blasts on Sunday at a depot in the east of the Republic of Congo's capital Brazzaville killed almost 200 people and wounded more than 1 300, leaving city hospitals overwhelmed.

Hundreds of houses around the arms depot were destroyed, leaving more than 5 000 people homeless.

In districts just outside the zone on Thursday, local people continued to look for their belongings in the ruins of their homes.

Many complained that looters had already made off with their possessions - and much of what had not been looted was smashed.

"I'm too late," said one man in his forties who did not want to be named. "They took everything of value. Thieves, thieves!"

"They took all our money," said a woman, who also wished to remain anonymous. "The prowlers come and take what they can put in their pockets: money, jewellery," she added.

On Wednesday, the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights denounced what it said was the government's "chaotic" management of the disaster.

Many of those made homeless by the explosions were sheltered in two churches, in an indoor market and in the city's stadiums, it said.

The Chadian president's office on Thursday announced it had sent meat, medical supplies and €760 000 to the Republic of Congo to help those hit by the disaster.

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