A series of explosions on Sunday in Equatorial Guinea is now known to have killed 31 people, officials say. The number of those injured rose to 600.
The blasts hit a military base in the country’s main city, Bata. Officials blame badly stored dynamite along with stubble burning by nearby farmers.
Teams including volunteers continue to search the wreckage of buildings and homes for victims.
Three young children were found alive and taken to hospital.
Local media showed a row of covered bodies along a street.
There are fears the death toll could rise further as some victims may still be trapped.
Almost all buildings and homes in the city suffered “huge damage”, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said.
In a statement, President Obiang Nguema said the blasts had been caused “by the negligence of a unit charged with the care and protection of stores of dynamite and explosives” at the Nkoantoma military base.
He said the base had “caught fire due to neighbouring farmers clearing farming land by setting it alight, leading to the explosion”. The president has appealed for international aid.
In a series of tweets, the health ministry called for volunteer health workers to go to Bata Regional Hospital and for urgent blood donations. The ministry said mental health teams were also being deployed to help victims.
El #MINSABS ha preparado una brigada de Salud Mental compuesta por psiquiatras, psicólogos y enfermeras especializados en situaciones de contingencia para atender a las víctimas de la explosión de ayer en Bata. Porque los daños no son solo físicos sino también mentales. pic.twitter.com/RoIVV8TF4j
— Guinea Salud (@GuineaSalud) March 8, 2021
Some hospitals have been overwhelmed by the number of patients admitted, state TV reported. It broadcast images of wounded people lying on the floor of a crowded hospital.
Video of the aftermath of the explosions showed a chaotic scene with distressed people fleeing as smoke drifted over the area.
One resident told AFP news agency: “We haven’t slept all night. The houses were burning all night long and we kept hearing small explosions.”
Another described how his uncle had found the burned bodies of five members of his family.
The only opposition party, the CPDS, described the blasts as “the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in the history of Equatorial Guinea” and called on Spain, France and the United States to send aid, including rescue teams, medical staff and medicines.
The Spanish embassy said its nationals should remain at home and issued a series of emergency numbers.