At least 17 people have died and more than 400 have been injured in a series of explosions near a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea, officials say.
Sunday’s blasts, in the main city of Bata, were caused by “negligence” around the storage of dynamite at the barracks, the country’s president said.
Images on social media showed huge plumes of smoke and widespread damage.
State television showed people looking for survivors in the rubble and lifting up debris from collapsed buildings.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said in a statement that the impact of the explosion “caused damage in almost all the houses and buildings in Bata”, and called for international aid.
The incident may have occurred after farmers burned fields surrounding the barracks, he added.
In a series of tweets, the health ministry said 420 injured people were being treated in hospitals, and called for volunteer health workers to go to Bata Regional Hospital.
The ministry also asked for urgent blood donations.
Hasta ahora se desconoce el número total de fallecidos pero se estima que hay alrededor de 300 heridos.
⚠️Pedimos la contribución de donantes de sangre.
⚠️El personal sanitario voluntario que quiera ayudar que se persone al Hospital Regional de Bata. pic.twitter.com/ZycOH7w9dJ
— Guinea Salud (@GuineaSalud) March 7, 2021
It listed three hospitals where the “seriously and very seriously injured” were being transferred.
Some local hospitals have been overwhelmed by the number of patients admitted, TVGE 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.
“We hear the explosion and we see the smoke, but we don’t know what’s going on,” one local resident told AFP news agency.
In a tweet, France’s ambassador Olivier Brochenin sent his condolences to the victims, describing the event as a “catastrophe”.
Equatorial Guinea was a Spanish colony until independence in 1968. The Spanish embassy said its country’s citizens should remain at home and issued a series of emergency numbers.