At least 105 people have died and 615 have been injured after the explosions this Sunday in a military barracks in Bata. According to the latest official part of the government, 482 injured have already been discharged from hospitals in the city, which is the continental and economic capital of Equatorial Guinea and has just over 250,000 inhabitants.
However, the number of victims could increase because, as the Deputy Minister of Health, Dámaso Mitoha Ondo’o, told EFE on Tuesday, “the rescue work continues trying to see if it can possibly be found if there is someone already alive and try to see how many victims there have been from the point of view of deaths. “RELATED
Civil Protection personnel and the fire department continue to track the epicenter of the explosions, which blew up the arsenal of the Enkoantoma Rapid Intervention Unit Headquarters, devastated by the blasts.
“They continue to remove bodies, those who were left without removing yesterday are those who are being removed today,” local sources who had access to “ground zero”, where dozens of homes have been reduced to ruins, assured EFE on Tuesday.
“80% (of the corpses) were removed yesterday [lunes]. Some houses remained that were not raised yesterday. The excavators are up, “these sources have indicated on condition of anonymity.” Today [martes] Everything is going to end because there are few houses left. “
In the midst of the desolation, emergency teams were able to rescue “more than 60 people” this Monday, according to the Government of this small Central African country of about 1.3 million inhabitants, located in the Gulf of Guinea and a former Spanish colony.
The event represents a tremendous blow to a nation that has never experienced anything like it before. “It is a national tragedy (…). The country is shocked,” stressed the deputy minister, who has clarified that, despite the initial “shock”, “normality is returning” to Bata.
The incident occurred due to “the negligence and carelessness of the unit in charge of the care and protection of the dynamite and explosive deposits attached to the ammunition of the military barracks”, which caught fire due to “the burning of the farms in their vicinity by the neighbors “, has admitted the Head of State, Teodoro Obiang.
Since its independence from Spain in 1968, Equatorial Guinea, one of the main oil producers in Africa, has been considered by human rights groups one of the most repressive countries in the world, due to accusations of arrests and torture of dissidents and complaints electoral fraud. Obiang, 78, has led the country with an iron fist since 1979, when he overthrew his uncle Francisco Macías in a coup, and is the longest-serving president in the world.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Wednesday for an “independent investigation” of the explosions. In a statement, also signed by EG Justice, an NGO promoting human rights in Equatorial Guinea, HRW has urged the authorities of the Central African country to “invite international experts to carry out an independent investigation.”
According to people interviewed by EG Justice in Bata, “the actual number of victims is much higher” than the figure given by the government.
“Given the high levels of corruption in Equatorial Guinea, donors and aid groups should send support directly to affected people rather than disburse aid to the government,” the statement said.
Human Rights Watch and EG Justice have indicated that government institutions “lack independence, transparency, and adherence to the rule of law.”
“The government’s response to the explosion has exposed its callous disregard for the well-being of Equatorial Guineans,” said HRW Senior Business and Human Rights Researcher Sarah Saadoun. Apart from the cause of the tragedy, “Equatoguineans deserve to know why the military is storing explosives in the middle of a populated area, if there are other substances in storage that represent an imminent public danger, and what the Government is doing to prevent another similar explosion in the future, “added Saadoun.
Solidarity is making its way through the pain (the hashtag #TodossomosBata has become popular on social networks) and the humanitarian aid that several countries have promised Equatorial Guinea, such as the United States, China or Spain, which sent a plane on Tuesday loaded with essential medical supplies to attend to those affected by the catastrophe.
The Spanish Government “is committed to the population of Equatorial Guinea and specifically with those who have suffered the consequences of the explosion in Bata,” said the Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno Bau, at the Torrejón Air Base. from Ardoz (Madrid), from where the humanitarian flight departed. For this reason, Moreno added, “we wanted to respond as soon as possible to the emergency appeal of the Equatorial Guinean authorities.”