Feature: Survivors recount arsenal blasts as toll rises in Republic of Congo

March 5, 2012 11:30 am 

BRAZZAVILLE, March 5 — Chinese workers who survived Sunday morning's blasts at a munition depot in Brazzaville, capital of Republic of Congo, said the shockwave ripped through their bodies and threw them against the wall, recounting the horrific moments of the explosions which have already killed over 150.

Bei Weiqing, a Chinese worker with Beijing Construction Engineering Group, told Xinhua in a local hospital that all the window glass panels in his room were shattered by the huge explosion.

"Shattered glasses flew about and hit me," said the survivor, who was still suffering from the shock. "It was not long before the second explosion was heard."

"A lot of us were hit and thrown high by the shockwave, banged against the wall," he said. "Some of us were left suffering from bone fractures."

About 140 Chinese workers with Bei's group were working at the construction site near the depot when the blasts went off. As of Sunday evening, six of them have been killed in the tragedy with 12 others injured and one still missing, according to the latest updates from the local Chinese Embassy which was also damaged in the explosions.

Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of Congo Li Shuli told Xinhua the door frame of his room was twisted in the explosions.

"The ceiling of some rooms in the embassy even fell down after the explosions," he said.

The blasts, which rocked the city of Brazzaville at 8 a.m. local time (0700 GMT), destroyed an arms depot between the districts of Mpila and Talangai. The Congolese government blamed the explosions on accidental fire.

A Xinhua correspondent saw in the morning at the blast scene bodies carried away on stretchers and wounded lying on their back in the streets, waiting to be rescued.

Heavy smokes were seen rising from the munitions depot which the blasts hit.

Many buildings near the depot, which was cordoned off, were leveled to the ground after the spate of explosions. Cars at the scene were seen destroyed.

The window glass panels of Xinhua's local bureau were shattered by the blasts and the deafening sound was even heard across the Congo River in Kinshasa.

The dormitory building of Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei Technologies was badly damaged, with no casualties reported, Chinese officials confirmed earlier.

Cries could be heard in a crowded hospital in downtown Brazzaville, where the wounded were rushed . Doctors could only attend to seriously injured due to the lack of medics.

A Chinese medical team in the country took part in the rescue work.

"All the emergency drug has gone shortly," said Zhang Guoxiang, head of the rescue team. "The Chinese embassy workers have been busy purchasing the drug."

Fear and shock gripped the city, which was plunged into chaos after the blasts. Telecommunication went dead briefly.

Republic of Congo's Defense Minister Charles Zacharie Bowao urged the citizens in the capital to remain calm after the explosions.

"The explosions you heard were neither a war, a military coup or a riot," he said in a televised speech.

The country's authorities have tightened security in the capital.

The neighboring DR Congo has deployed armored vehicles on patrol along the Congo River, the common border of the two countries, while authorities are calling for calm among citizens. (PNA/Xinhua)

FPV/LOR/mmg

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