New reports claim 20 people have died after four cataclysmic explosions levelled a military camp, which houses special forces, gendarmes and their families, as well as nearby residential areas of Bata in Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, March 6, 2021.
According to a statement from Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang, the Bata blasts were caused by “negligent handling of dynamite” at the base in the military barracks located in the neighbourhood of Mondong Nkuantoma.
By the evening of the same day, Obiang requested a probe into the disaster, adding that the blasts were set off by a local farmer practising slash-and-burn agriculture near stores of explosives and munitions.
The defense ministry released a statement late Sunday saying that a fire at a weapons depot in the barracks caused the explosion of high-caliber ammunition while also adding that the provisional toll was 20 dead and 600 injured.
The Need For Further Investigation
On Wednesday, State Television reported 105 people were killed and 615 were wounded from the explosion. Human Rights Watch (HRW), citing Equatorial Guinea-focused human rights group EG Justice, said that “based on the number of bodies pulled from the rubble, the actual number of victims is much higher”.
It also urged donors and aid groups to send support directly to victims and their families rather than through the government, “given high levels of corruption in Equatorial Guinea”.
HRW called for international experts to conduct an investigation and said “unverified accounts … allege that the fire was started by soldiers ordered to burn brush and that it then spread to the armoury, or that it was started during training on the use of explosives gone awry”.
Satellite images from Planet Labs Inc, analysed by The Associated Press news agency, show only charred signs of fire at the site that remained centred on three rectangular buildings. There was no sign of farming around the base and the only land-clearing work seen came from a construction project near those buildings, according to the satellite images.
The images show the military base at Bata had been undergoing construction at its southeast corner before the explosion. Old, earth-covered munitions storage facilities appear to have been removed and replaced by new structures. Equatorial Guinea is an African country of 1.3 million people located south of Cameroon while the Bata city has roughly 175,000 inhabitants.