May 22, 2024
Equatorial Guinea explosions death toll rises to 98, health ministry says

Equatorial Guinea explosions death toll rises to 98, health ministry says

Nearly 100 people have been confirmed dead after the blasts at a military base in the Central African country over the weekend, the country’s health ministry said Tuesday.

The blasts in the port city of Bata on Sunday killed 98 people and injured another 615, according to the government’s latest count.

More than 60 people have been pulled out from rubble at the site of the explosion by the fire service and other agencies, authorities said.

Around half of those wounded have been discharged from hospital while the rest are still being treated.

Resident Carmen Alebeso told CNN she was in her car when the first blast happened at around 2 p.m. local time on Sunday.

“It was a very big noise and everyone got out of their cars and we were all in shock. We saw the typical image of an atomic bomb in front of us. It was a confusing and desperate situation, people were shouting and crying,” she said.

All the buildings in the area were completely destroyed, and bodies were still being pulled out of rubble in the area Monday, she added.

Alebeso added that medical aid was not getting to those who needed it the most.

“We have three main hospitals and they were all collapsed. So many people injured, it was awful. People were crying trying to get in to get some treatment. It was a terrifying situation,” she said.

“We ask for the contribution of blood donors,” the health ministry said Monday on Twitter, calling on volunteer health personnel to go to Bata Regional Hospital.

President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo faulted the military for mishandling dynamite and other explosive devices kept in its care, which he said had led to the blasts after individuals suspected to be farmers set up a fire in a field bordering the military base.

“Bata was the location of an accident caused by the negligence and carelessness of a unit charged with the care and protection of the stores of dynamite and explosives next to the ammunition at the Nkoantoma Military Base, which caught fire from the burning of nearby land by neighbors, causing an explosion in the dynamite and explosives store and subsequently the ammunition,” the president said in a statement Sunday.

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Tutu Alicante, a US-based human rights lawyer from Equatorial Guinea, told CNN the government must answer questions about why deadly explosives were kept in the military camp.

“In other countries, these things are kept in remote places such as deserts. Why is dynamite being kept in the middle of the largest city in the country and in the barracks where the army and their family live? We need a proper investigation into what has happened,” he said.

President Mbasogo, 78, appealed for calm and said he was calling for an emergency meeting to assess the situation and get help to those who need it.

The first batch of humanitarian aid arrived in the country from Spain Tuesday, which has sent antibiotics, drugs and other essentials to treat those wounded in the explosion.

It said health workers and the fire brigade were providing care to victims and transferring those with serious injuries to hospitals.

Mbasogo appealed to the international community to assist his country in the repair of public and private infrastructure damaged in the blast — which he said “will involve significant economic resources.”

The incident occurred as Equatorial Guinea reels from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Politician's seized $13 million supercar collection to be auctioned off

Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa’s smallest countries, with just over 850,000 residents. Bata is one of the country’s two cities with populations of more than 30,000, the other being the island-based capital Malabo.

Mbasogo, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, has ruled the tiny central African nation for 42 years. His son Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue is the Vice President and is known for his extravagance.

A collection of ultra-expensive supercars worth $13 million were seized from him in 2019 and auctioned in Switzerland after an investigation into money laundering.

Before that, Obiang agreed to a $30 million settlement to resolve the US government’s allegations that he used money plundered from his country to amass assets such as a California mansion, a jet and a sizable collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia — including the crystal-encrusted white glove from Jackson’s “Bad” world tour.