At least 20 people have been killed and more than 600 injured in a series of explosions at a military base in Equatorial Guinea.
They say Sunday’s blasts in the main city, Bata, were caused by stubble burning by farmers and negligence in the storage of dynamite at the base.
Almost all buildings and homes in the city suffered “huge damage”, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said.
State television showed people looking for survivors in the rubble.
There are fears the death toll will rise further as some victims may be trapped.
In a statement, President Obiang Nguema said the blasts had been caused “by the negligence of a unit charged with the care and protection of stores of dynamite and explosives” at the Nkoantoma military base.
He said the base “caught fire due to neighbouring farmers clearing farming land by setting it alight, leading to the explosion.” The president called for international aid.
In a series of tweets, the health ministry said 600 injured people were being treated in hospitals, and called for volunteer health workers to go to Bata Regional Hospital.
The ministry also asked for urgent blood donations.
Some hospitals have been overwhelmed by the number of patients admitted, state TV reported. It broadcast images of wounded people lying on the floor of a crowded hospital.
Video of the aftermath of the explosions showed a chaotic scene with distressed people fleeing as smoke drifted over the area.
“We hear the explosion and we see the smoke, but we don’t know what’s going on,” one local resident told AFP news agency.
Bata is a city with more than 175,000 residents.
Five things about Equatorial Guinea:
- Africa’s only Spanish-speaking country, it gained independence from Spain in 1968
- It is divided between the mainland and an island, where the capital, Malabo, is located
- President Obiang Nguema, in power since 1979, has been repeatedly accused of human rights abuses
- Western officials and NGOs have also accused the president and his family of massive corruption
- Despite riches in oil and gas, 76% of its 1.5 million people live in poverty, according to the UN and World Bank.
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Somebody forgot to put on their thinking cap.