Republic of Congo: 246 dead after arms depot blasts

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Congo blast
Brazzaville (Republic of Congo), Mar 7: Morticians stacked bodies two to a tray at Brazzaville's main morgue as state radio reported at least 246 people had died from two days of explosions at an armory that catapulted shells, rockets and other munitions into a densely populated area of the capital of the Republic of Congo.

Police said international firefighters had brought the main blaze under control by yesterday morning, and prevented it from spreading to a second munitions depot just 100 yards (meters) away.

The second depot contains even heavier-caliber weapons, including Stalin's Organ multiple rocket launchers, a military source said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters.

It still was unclear whether rescue efforts could start in earnest, nearly three days after the first blasts. The military source said there were plans for the controlled destruction of the munitions in the second depot, which likely will delay any attempts to dig into the rubble to find possible survivors or bodies.

There are fears that undetonated munitions have been catapulted miles (kilometres) away by the blasts, and that the many small fires ignited could suck away oxygen needed by any entombed survivors.

The government announced a period of national mourning to be observed from yesterday until victims are buried, at an unknown date.

At the morgue of the city's main Central University Hospital, funeral services director Ferdinand Malembo Milandou said on national television that they had run out of space.

"We've been forced to place two bodies in each rack," he said from the morgue that has the capacity to hold 126 corpses.

National radio reported that morgue was holding 236 bodies.

PTI

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