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Ammo dump explodes in Congo, killing 100-plus

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:14 PM EST, Sun March 4, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Hospitals are overflowing with wounded, an official says
  • NEW: An electrical short is the suspected cause of the ammo dump blasts
  • Congo's government says the explosions killed 123 people
  • The concussions broke windows across the Congo River in Kinshasa

(CNN) -- A series of explosions at an ammunition depot killed 123 people and wounded about 2,000 more in Brazzaville, the capital of Africa's Republic of Congo, Congolese officials said.

The explosions occurred shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday (2 a.m. ET) when a fire at the depot set off a cache of tank shells, said Betu Bangana, director of protocol for President Denis Sassou-Nguesso. Bangana said 123 people had been confirmed dead by Sunday evening, and many bodies may be "unfindable."

Ministry of Information press attache Bruno Impene said hospitals were overflowing, with the wounded lying in the corridors. The blasts destroyed numerous homes in the neighborhoods surrounding the installation, Bangana said.

The force of the explosions broke windows up to 5 km (3 miles) away in Kinshasa, the capital of the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC's military responded by putting tanks and troops on the streets and the banks of the Congo River, which separates the two cities, until it became clear that no attack on the capital was under way.

Impene said a short circuit the suspected cause of the fire. Authorities are treating the blaze as accidental, Bangana said.

CNN's Nkepile Mabuse and journalist Fred Robarts contributed to this report.

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