At least 15 people have been killed and more than 400 injured in a massive series of explosions at a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea, state television reported.
The explosions were due to “careless handling of dynamite,” according to a statement read on TVGE by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. He said the explosions took place at 4 p.m. in the barracks in the Mondong Nkuantoma neighborhood in Bata. He said the impact damaged almost every building in the country’s main city.
There were some discrepancies with the death toll, with TVGE reporting 20 dead, a Health Ministry tweet saying 17 were killed and the president’s statement mentioning 15.
State television showed a huge plume of smoke rising above the site of the blast, believed to have come from at least five blasts, as the crowd fled, people shouting, “We don’t know. not what happened, but everything is destroyed. “
Images broadcast by local media showed people screaming and running through the streets surrounded by debris and smoke. The roofs of the houses were torn off and the wounded were transported to a hospital.
The health ministry tweeted that workers were treating the injured at the site of the tragedy and at medical facilities, but feared people were still buried under the rubble.
The president’s jet-set son Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, vice president for defense and security, appeared in televised footage at the scene of the blasts inspecting the damage, accompanied by his Israeli bodyguards.
Teodorin, as he is called, is increasingly seen as the president’s designated successor in the oil-rich Central African nation.
Bata is the largest city, with around 800,000 out of 1.4 million inhabitants, most of them in poverty. While on the mainland, the capital Malabo sits on Bioko, one of the country’s islands off the West African coast.
Equatorial Guinea has been ruled by Obiang Nguema, 78, for almost 42 years. Personalities from the opposition and international organizations regularly accuse him of human rights violations.
A doctor calling TVGE, who went by his first name, Florentino, said the explosions were a “time of crisis” and hospitals were overcrowded. He said a sports center set up for Covid-19 patients would be used to receive less severe cases.
Broadcaster Radio Macuto said on Twitter that people were being evacuated 4 km outside the city because the fumes could be harmful.
Following the explosion, the Spanish Embassy in Equatorial Guinea recommended on Twitter that Spanish nationals “stay at home”.