More than 50 people were killed when an army ammunition depot exploded outside the capital, Maputo, on Thursday, said a United Nations official citing reports. "We have also learnt that more than 150 people have been injured", said Miguel Barreiro, the UN project coordinator of the small arms and light weapons control intervention in Mozambique. The toll is expected to rise.
Flaming tracer bullets were seen against the night sky on Thursday in the densely populated suburb of Malhazine, about 10km from the city centre, where the depot is located.
Thousands of people crammed aboard buses and other vehicles as they tried to flee the suburb while towering flames rose several hundred feet above the burning armoury. An IRIN journalist at the site saw shells flying over the wall of the depot into the neighbourhood, while black smoke billowed over the suburb and through streets.
Photo: Paulo Van Der Ven
|The arms depot went up in flames on Thursday|
"At this point no fatalities have been reported, but dozens of people have been brought into hospitals, injured by the shells of the bombs or broken glass from window panes and doors," said Fernando Lima, a prominent Mozambican publisher and journalist.
Lima reported that the explosion on Thursday was as severe as the first time the Malhazine depot exploded in 1985, killing two children and injuring 40 people. Another depot blew up in January. "Army depots frequently explode in Mozambique as the storage facilities are not very good," he explained.
The IRIN journalist said there was a possibility of fatalities, as he had witnessed an informal restaurant going up in flames but did not know whether all the patrons had managed to escape.
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