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Mozambique Arms Depot Explosion Kills Dozens, Injures More

  • Delia Robertson

At least 83 people are dead, and about 300 have been injured in a series of explosions at an arms depot on the outskirts of the Mozambique capital, Maputo. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg.

The explosions at Mozambique's largest military arms depot near the international airport late Thursday afternoon is thought to have been caused by the high temperatures of around 38 degrees [centigrade] in the capital in recent days.

Mozambique Red Cross director, Fernanda Teixeira, said that one explosion led to another as ammunition of various types was ignited, sending incendiary projectiles into the neighboring suburb of Magoanine.

"But what we know is that the explosion was very big and some of these projectiles went to houses of people, damage the houses and killed people around," explained Teixeira.

Teixeira also said that the explosions occurred at one of the busiest times of the day.

"And this happened in a moment when normally people is going back from the office to the house, some children still in school, so it was a busy time, let's say," said Teixeira.

Thousands of people in the area are leaving their homes following the explosions which were heard up to the distance of 10 kilometers.

Mozambique has experienced a series of disasters recently. At least 140,000 people were displaced last month following flooding in Zambezi province; and unusual spring tides this week caused further damage. Teixeira says such events divert resources and attention from important development work.

"[The] main problem that I see is that the efforts of Mozambicans that should be directed to development work, we are now concentrating on responding to these emergencies and we are not giving the necessary attention to the normal development work that we need to do," said Teixeira.

South Africa has sent a team of experts to assist in assessing the damage caused by the explosions. President Thabo Mbeki said in a statement that South Africa would respond positively to any further requests for assistance from Mozambique.