7 March 2012

Congo-Brazzaville: UN Deploys Team to Assist After Arms Depot Blasts

Photo: Radio Okapi/ Ph. John Bompengo

The United Nations humanitarian office said today it has deployed a team to the Republic of Congo to support authorities after the explosions earlier this week at an ammunition depot that killed at least 200 people and injured some 1,500 others.

The explosions that occurred on 4 March in the capital city of Brazzaville "is a sad reminder to us all of the complex challenges that technological disasters pose, in particular in an urban context," said Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

"It is critical that environmental considerations are factored into humanitarian response to ensure we can provide effective relief," she added in a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The four-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC) is composed of experienced humanitarian and environmental emergency responders. It plans to undertake a comprehensive site assessment, which will include sampling and analysis to determine possible exposure.

OCHA stated that the full extent of the blast radius has not yet been determined, but has destroyed surrounding houses, buildings and transportation infrastructure.

People face additional threats from scattered unexploded ordnance, as well as possible contamination to the surrounding area, the Office added.

Ms. Bragg said that "emergencies such as this are, unfortunately, part of a growing trend in areas with dense population growth and rapid urbanization. People are often exposed to a greater number of environmental and humanitarian emergencies when they live in vulnerable areas close to military or industrial sites."

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