Mass Funeral Planned for Congo Blast Victims

09 Mar 2012

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 A taxi (C) is seen under the debris in Brazzaville


Funerals and a memorial service for nearly 200 people killed in Congo by last weekend's munitions dump blasts will take place on Sunday, a government spokesman said.

"The government will take care of the burials and everything that goes with them," Bienvenu Okiemy told AFP on Thursday.

The funerals would be held in the city centre after a memorial service attended by President Denis Sassou Nguesso, he said.

The series of blasts last Sunday at a depot in the east of the Republic of Congo's capital Brazzaville killed almost 200 people, injured more than 2,300 and left 14,000 homeless, the government said Thursday.

Planning Minister Pierre Moussa, who heads a panel investigating the disaster, told parliament that 13,854 homeless had been accommodated at reception centres and 2,315 wounded had received hospital treatment.

Of the injured, 297 were still in hospital.

An earlier toll had given more than 1,300 injured and 5,000 homeless.

The explosions were blamed on a short-circuit and fire.

Congolese soldiers meanwhile widened and tightened a safety zone around the site, stopping local people from entering.

One soldier on duty said the cordon had been expanded while experts had begun tackling the munitions still unexploded after the blasts. This information could not immediately be officially confirmed.

Army officers and experts from the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), which specialises in demining work, have worked on a plan to make the site safe.

In districts just outside the zone, local people continued to look for their belongings in the ruins of their homes. Hundreds of houses around the arms depot were destroyed.

Many complained that looters had already made off with their possessions -- and much of what had not been looted was smashed.

"I'm too late," said one man in his forties who did not want to be named. "They took everything of value. Thieves, thieves!"

"They took all our money," said a woman, who also wished to remain anonymous. "The prowlers come and take what they can put in their pockets: money, jewellery," she added.

On Wednesday, the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights denounced what it said was the government's "chaotic" response to the disaster.

Many of those made homeless by the explosions were sheltered in two churches, in an indoor market and in the city's stadiums, it said.

The Chadian president's office on Thursday announced it had sent meat, medical supplies and 500 million CFA francs (760,000 euros/one million dollars) to the Republic of Congo to help those hit by the disaster.

Tags: News, Africa, Mass Funeral, CONGO, Victims

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