Equatorial Guinea authorities say a series of explosions at a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea killed at least 20 people and wounded at least 600 others
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — A series of explosions at a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 600 others on Sunday, authorities said.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said the explosion at 4 p.m. local time was due to the “negligent handling of dynamite” in the military barracks located in the neighborhood of Mondong Nkuantoma in Bata.
“The impact of the explosion caused damage in almost all the houses and buildings in Bata,” the president said in a statement, which was in Spanish.
The defense ministry released a statement late Sunday saying that a fire at a weapons depot in the barracks caused the explosion of high-caliber ammunition. It said the provisional death toll was 20, adding that the cause of the explosions will be fully investigated.
The country’s president said the fire may have been due to residents burning the fields surrounding the barracks.
State television showed a huge plume of smoke rising above the explosion site as crowds fled, with many people crying out “we don’t know what happened, but it is all destroyed.”
Images on local media seen by The Associated Press show people screaming and crying running through the streets amid debris and smoke. Roofs of houses were ripped off and wounded people were being carried into a hospital.
The blasts were a shock for the oil rich Central African nation. Foreign Minister Simeón Oyono Esono Angue met with foreign ambassadors and asked for aid.
“It is important for us to ask our brother countries for their assistance in this lamentable situation since we have a health emergency (due to COVID-19) and the tragedy in Bata,” he said.
A doctor calling into TVGE, who went by his first name, Florentino, said the situation was a “moment of crisis” and that the hospitals were overcrowded. He said a sports center set up for COVID-19 patients would be used to receive minor cases.
Radio station, Radio Macuto, said on Twitter that people were being evacuated within four kilometers of the city because the fumes might be harmful.
Following the blast, the Spanish Embassy in Equatorial Guinea recommended on Twitter that “Spanish nationals stay in their homes.”
A previous version of this story was corrected to show that state television is TVGE, not TGVE.