A series of explosions has injured hundreds of people in the city of Bata in Equatorial Guinea. Many more are feared to be trapped under the rubble.
Equatorial Guinea's largest city and main economic hub Bata was hit by four explosions on Sunday, local eyewitnesses reported. The cause of the blasts remains unknown.
The Ministry of Health said that at least 300 people had been injured, and that many were feared dead or trapped under the rubble. It said on Twitter that the explosion occured at a military barracks, where local media reported that thousands of people had been living.
State broadcaster TVGE reported that practically all of the houses in the military zone, as well as most of the houses nearby, had been damaged by the explosion. Reporters on the ground also reported seeing hospitals full with many wounded women and children
The health department told medical workers to head to hospitals, which were reportedly overwhelmed.
Local media reported that the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue had arrived at the scene of the explosion.
"Pain has hit Equatorial Guinea again right in the middle of its fight against the coronavirus pandemic with explosions this Sunday in the Rapid Intervention Barracks in Nkoantoma, in city of Bata. From here, I express my sincere grief for the victims," the vice president tweetd.
What we know so far
There were four explosions at an army barracks in the major city of Bata
The initial explosion happened at 1 p.m. local time (1200 UTC/GMT)
The explosions caused widespread damage
At least 300 people have been injured, the Ministry of Health expects fatalities
Overwhelmed hospitals have been pleading for blood donations
Phone lines and internet are largely down in the city
Bodies pulled from rubble
Local television showed people pulling bodies from rubble, some of which were carried away wrapped in bed sheets, Reuters reported.
Phone lines and internet were reportedly down, but some people were able to share unverified images of the destruction on social media.
Another user shared an unverified video that they described as "images of the military barracks of Nkoantoma, Bata, epicenter of the explosion which rocked Bata this afternoon.
A further unverified video, shared on Twitter, showed extensive scenes of destruction and debris in a residential district of the city.
An eyewitness in the city told the Spanish news agency EFE that there had been "a huge explosion, it opened all our windows ... We saw a pillar of smoke and then suddenly there was a second explosion and then shortly after, another."
"We don't quite know what happened, but there are soldiers on the street and now we cannot make calls, only those with internet, which is almost nobody here, are connected over Whatsapp," the witness said.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
ab/aw (EFE, Reuters, dpa)