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Nigeria Holds Mass Burial for 100 Victims of Last Month's Explosions

Nigerian authorities have buried the bodies of more than 100 victims of last month's explosions at a munitions depot in Lagos.

The mass burial had been delayed for several days to give families more time to identify and claim the bodies.

Officials say more than 1,000 perished after a fire set off explosions at a munitions depot on January 27 in the densely-populated Ikeja district of Lagos.

Most of the victims died, not in the fire and explosions, but, in a canal several kilometers away. The sound of the blasts prompted thousands of local residents to run, but in the darkness they plunged into a canal and drowned. A large number of those who died were children.

Government officials and relatives of the dead and missing gathered Saturday at the canal for an interfaith memorial service.

The remains of more than 100 victims were placed in individual coffins that were draped in Nigerian flags. They were buried side by side in a clearing next to the canal. Officials plan to build a memorial for the victims at the site.

Several kilometers away, at a police academy in northern Lagos, survivors continue to line up at a relief center where Nigerian Red Cross workers have been distributing clothes and food.

Tempers are short and frustration is building up among those who say they have not received the help they need following the disaster. Josephine Jacob, a mother of five, is among the hundreds waiting in line for bags of used clothing and food. "We need help. Help us," she says. "All of our things, all of our property, were damaged. We need help. Help us, please."

Mrs. Jacob's appeal is one often heard at the relief center. It houses not only victims of the explosions at Ikeja but the survivors of recent ethnic fighting that killed more than 100 people in Lagos' Idi Araba area.

The Nigerian military has apologized for the explosions. The government has since ordered all army ordnance to be stored at facilities outside the city.

In remarks at the memorial service Saturday, the governor of Lagos state, Bola Tinubu, said the best tribute that Nigeria can pay to the victims is to find and address the root causes of the disaster.