Washington — The U.S. State Department has successfully cleared a batch of unexploded munitions left by munitions-depot explosions in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.
Working in close coordination with national authorities and with technical experts from the United Nations and specialized nongovernmental organizations, a team of civilian technical experts helped dispose of nearly 20,000 damaged and unstable munitions, allowing some area residents to return home and safely rebuild. The State Department reported on the results in a May 17 press release.
The March 4 explosions at a munitions depot in Brazzaville resulted in more than 250 deaths, injured more than 2,000 people and forced tens of thousands of families from their homes. Unexploded ordnance was thrown as far as three kilometers, posing lingering hazards to emergency responders and complicating recovery efforts. The cause of the blasts remains unknown.
The tragedy highlights the challenges posed by "dangerous depots" around the world and the need for national governments to properly maintain, store and safeguard their weapons and munitions inventories, the State Department said.
At the request of the Congolese government, the State Department immediately deployed a seven-member team of civilian technical experts from its Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to help Congolese authorities with the initial phases of emergency response and post-blast clean-up. The team received support from MAG International, a nongovernmental organization specializing in clearance of unexploded ordnance.
Since 2008, the State Department has deployed QRF teams to Cyprus, Libya, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts, Tanzania, Uruguay and Vietnam to address emergency issues related to conventional weapons and munitions, land mines and unexploded ordnance.