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Relief Efforts Under Way in Nigeria


Relief efforts continue in Lagos, Nigeria, following Sunday's explosions that resulted in the deaths of more than 600 people. The blasts set off fires across a wide area of the Nigerian commercial capital, leaving thousands of people homeless.

Many of the victims of Sunday's explosions were children. Rescue workers say they account for a large number of the corpses pulled from a nearby canal where panicked people drowned as they tried to run from the blasts at the Ikeja military facility.

Nigerian Red Cross officials in Lagos say many of the children were out playing in the streets Sunday afternoon when the munitions depot at the Ikeja military facility caught fire and the massive explosions began.

Red Cross spokesman Patrick Bawa in Lagos tells VOA his agency registered at least 425 children who lost contact with their parents. More than half have been reunited with their relatives since the disaster, after lists of the missing were broadcast on local radio.

Mr. Bawa has said finding the relatives of the remaining children has been a challenge.

"Some of them are very little children, so they can hardly tell us the kind of things we want to hear. Most of them can tell only what their names are. Apart from that, they can't say anything further. Some of the children are really in a state of shock. We have some of them who have hearing problems as a result of the blasts. Those of them who have that problem have been taken to the general hospital for medical attention," he said.

Mr. Bawa said the disaster has prompted an outpouring of public help for the victims. He said individuals across Nigeria have been contributing food, drinking water, clothing and medicine.

The Nigerian army is working to provide temporary shelter for the estimated 2,500 people who - relief officials say - were left homeless after burning shrapnel flew across the area Sunday.

The explosions and their aftermath have caused an outcry among people who are angry that the military was storing high-power explosives in a densely populated neighborhood.

Stopping short of taking responsibility for the blasts, Nigerian military officials have expressed regret for the incident.

President Olusegun Obasanjo earlier this week said the military will conduct an investigation of the explosions. Amid the public anger at the military, the two chambers of the Nigerian parliament have launched their own inquiries.

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