MALABO, March 8 (Reuters) – The death toll from a series of explosions in a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea has risen to 31, the health ministry said on Monday, as volunteers continued to search for bodies in the rubble.
About 600 people were injured in the blasts, which started with a fire at the Nkoantoma Military Base in the coastal city of Bata, according to the defence ministry.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema attributed the accident to negligence related to the handling of dynamite and said the explosions damaged almost all homes and buildings in Bata, a city of just over 250,000 people.
Equatorial Guinea’s health ministry said on Twitter it had prepared a mental health brigade made up of psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses to attend to the victims of the blast.
“The damages are not only physical but also mental,” the ministry said.
Images published by local media showed bodies wrapped in sheets and lined up on the side of a road, with children being pulled out from under piles of broken concrete and twisted metal.
Television station TVGE showed Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of President Obiang, visiting a hospital where victims were being treated on Monday.
The blasts come as Equatorial Guinea, an oil producer, is suffering a double economic shock because of the coronavirus pandemic and a drop in the price of crude oil, which provides around three-quarters of state revenue.
The former Spanish colony has been run by Obiang, Africa’s longest-serving leader, since 1979.
The majority of the 1.4 million population lives in poverty. The government has called for international support to help in the search and rescue effort and also in efforts to rebuild.
“Following the devastating explosions in Bata yesterday… Spain will proceed with the immediate dispatch of a shipment of humanitarian aid,” Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on Twitter. (Writing by Nellie Peyton Editing by Bate Felix and Mark Heinrich)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021. Click For Restrictions – https://agency.reuters.com/en/copyright.html