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72 dead in Mozambique explosion

world Updated: Mar 23, 2007 12:57 IST

At least 72 people were killed and hundreds injured in an explosion at an arms depot near Maputo airport in Mozambique, the government said on Friday.

"In total there are 72 dead," the ministry of health spokesman Ivo Garrido said on national television.

"There are about 360 injured," he added.

The series of blasts went off near the impoverished neighbourhood of Magoanine on Thursday at around dusk on the outskirts of the capital causing widespread panic in the city.

Exploding weapons in the armoury ignited those around them, leading to the series of explosions lasting until about 0100 IST.

Estacio Valoi, a correspondent for Maputo Corridor Radio said he had counted 13 bodies at the scene of the blast, while a doctor at the capital's central hospital said he was treating more than 100 casualties.

"We have so many patients, more than 100. We have open fractures, amputations, multiple amputations," said Dr Assis Da Costa.

The hospital's official death toll stood at nine, but was expected to rise in the morning as it was thought that families would be reluctant to drive casualties into the hospital on the poorly lit roads.

Homes were destroyed and roofs blown off when explosives rocketing from the armoury landed on nearby houses which went up in flames, causing people to flee in panic, said an agency correspondent.

Many people, especially children, were injured in the ensuing chaos.

Witnesses said that several missiles could be seen flying from distances of up to 30 kilometres from the scene of the blast.