At least 10 killed after blast at Congo arms dump

by Reuters
Friday, 24 January 2014 18:09 GMT

KINSHASA, Jan 24 (Reuters) - An explosion at an arms depot in Democratic Republic of Congo killed at least 10 people in a nearby town on Friday, according to a senior local government official.

The blast occurred after a lightning strike apparently sparked a fire at the depot near Mbuji-Mayi, a diamond mining hub that is the capital of Congo's Kasai-Oriental province and the country's third largest city.

Vicky Kazumba, spokesman for the provincial governor, said shells from the depot exploded and landed in the town, about 6 km (4 miles) away.

"In the town I have seen 10 dead, and maybe five injured ... The damage nearer the depot will be worse."

There was no immediate word on casualties at a military base near the depot and home to many soldiers' families.

Kazumba and two other local sources said the explosion appeared to have been caused by a lightening strike.

"When the depot exploded, shells flew in all directions," said Jean Alexis Kasuasua, president of the local civil society organisation. "There are many injured, there are serious injuries, amputees. There are also dead, but we are still verifying numbers. It seems the depot caught fire after a lightening strike caused a huge electrical surge."

Mbuji-Mayi is the heart of Congo's diamond mining industry, towards Congo's southern border with Angola.

Congo is rich in natural resources, including copper, cobalt and gold as well as diamonds, but decades of war and rampant corruption mean most of the 65 million Congolese live in abject poverty. (Reporting By Peter Jones; Editing by Larry King)

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