At least 15 people have died and hundreds more have been injured in a series of explosions in Equatorial Guinea, the country’s health ministry says.
Some 500 people were injured following the blasts, which happened near a military barracks in the country’s largest city of Bata on Sunday.
The blasts were caused by “negligence” relating to the storage of dynamite at the barracks, the president said.
Images on social media showed huge plumes of smoke and widespread damage.
⚠️Emergencia sanitaria en el barrio de Mondong Nkuantoma de Bata a raíz de fuertes explosiones en el cuartel militar ubicado en dicho barrio. Se estima que ha habido fallecidos y muchos desaparecidos bajo los escombros. pic.twitter.com/uxH3eg2N8j
— Guinea Salud (@GuineaSalud) March 7, 2021
State television showed people looking for survivors in the rubble and lifting up debris from collapsed buildings.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said in a statement that the impact of the explosion “caused damage in almost all the houses and buildings in Bata”, and called for international help with aid.
He added that the incident may have occurred following the burning of fields surrounding the barracks by farmers.
In a series of tweets, the health ministry asked for volunteer health workers to go to Bata Regional Hospital. It also asked for blood donations due to the high number of casualties.
It listed three hospitals where the “seriously and very seriously injured” were being transferred.
Some local hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of patients admitted, TVGE reported. It broadcast images of wounded people lying on the floor of a crowded hospital.
Video posted on social media of the aftermath of the explosions showed a chaotic scene of 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.
In a tweet, France’s ambassador Olivier Brochenin sent his condolences to the victims, describing the event as a “catastrophe”.
The Spanish embassy has said its country’s citizens should remain at home and issued a series of emergency numbers.
Equatorial Guinea was a Spanish colony until independence in 1968.