- Associated Press - Monday, March 5, 2012

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo — International rescuers fought Monday to prevent a fire from reaching a second arms depot in the capital of the Republic of Congo, a day after a blaze set off a series of explosions so violent they flattened buildings, killing hundreds and trapping countless others.

Small detonations continued to shake Brazzaville, though the blasts were not nearly as loud as those that convulsed the city on Sunday, splitting beams, buckling numerous buildings including two churches and a hospital, and causing windows to shatter in a 3-mile radius.

“For the time being, there are Russian, French and Congolese experts in the field who are trying to put out the fires,” said Delphin Kibakidi, the spokesman of the local chapter of the Red Cross. Their goal is to prevent the fires from reaching a second depot of even heavier weapons.

Ongoing explosions and fires hampered attempts to rescue hundreds believed to be trapped under debris.

A large crowd had gathered outside the municipal morgue, which along with a nearby hospital had registered 206 deaths hours after the first blast Sunday.

In a two-hour stretch on Monday, another seven bodies were brought to the morgue, bringing the death toll to at least 213.

That number is expected to rise as rescuers begin clearing the debris, including from St. Louis Catholic Church, where dozens of worshippers were attending Sunday Mass when the building buckled under the force of the blast.

Mission chief Jan Diplo of Doctors Without Borders said he had counted 936 injured people being treated at the three main hospitals. Others have gone to private hospitals, while dozens more wounded people were still arriving on Monday, he said.

“Most of the injuries we’re seeing are traumatic injuries from people who have had houses collapse on them,” Mr. Diplo said.

A team of unexploded ordnance experts from the Mine Advisory Group, funded by the European Union, said it was working with the country to help clear the area of danger.

“More lives are thought to be in danger from the threat of unexploded ordnance kicked out by the blast. Early reports indicate that the incident has seen potentially unstable projectiles scattered around urban areas, already causing a number of explosions and subsequent fatalities,” a statement from the group said.



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