KINSHASA - Plane Crash Said to Cause Dozens of Explosionsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
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Title: Plane Crash Said to Cause Kinshasa Explosion
Story Filed: Friday, April 14, 2000 12:09 PM EST
KINSHASA, Congo (Reuters) - Dozens of explosions at Kinshasa's international airport Friday were set off by a military plane crashing into a petrol tanker during take-off, igniting a fire that spread to arms depots and panic in parts of the capital, witnesses said.
Some witnesses said other planes may have been damaged or destroyed in the incident.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo army appealed for calm in a statement read out on state television, saying only that ''the explosions ... were due to a fire in the munitions depots at the international airport of Ndjili.''
At least 20 people were injured in the incident and one injured soldier told Reuters that his commander had been killed. This could not immediately be confirmed.
``We have taken in around 20 wounded, for the most part people with burns or with limbs missing,'' a doctor at the Mamayemo general hospital in Kinshasa said.
The noise of the explosions caused panic in parts of the city. The phone network appeared to go down shortly after the explosions, feeding the rumor mill and the general nervousness of the population.
Friday was due to be the first day of a cease-fire in Congo's war, which pits President Laurent Kabila's government and foreign allies against rebels in the north and east, backed by Rwanda and Uganda.
The rebels reached the outskirts of the capital close to the airport early in the war, which began in August 1998.
Rebels in the northeast said fighting had persisted on Friday, blaming government forces for the continued hostilities.
Copyright ) 2000 Reuters Limited.
-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), April 14, 2000
Here is a little different slant on the above story.
WIRE:04/14/2000 17:44:00 ET Explosions at Kinshasa airport leave dozens injured
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) _ Explosions shook Kinshasa's airport Friday, setting fire to several buildings, killing an undetermined number of people and seriously injuring dozens more. State-run radio reported that a short circuit sparked a fire at an army munitions depot, triggering a series of explosions that shattered all the windows of the airport terminal.
The fire spread to a fuel depot, causing further explosions, and engulfing two military planes in flames, the radio said.
An airport official, however, said the fire and explosions were triggered by a soldier who dropped ammunition while unloading a plane full of weapons. That explosion set fire to the fuel depot, from which flames spread to the munitions depot, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It was not possible to independently confirm either account.
U.N. sources in New York said there were unconfirmed reports that 27 people were injured. State radio said some people were killed, but did not specify the number.
David Wimhurst, a U.N. spokesman in New York, said the explosions involved a Boeing 707, though he did have any further details about it.
Secondary explosions persisted for more than two hours as ammunition blew up, showering the area with shrapnel, the radio reported.
Ambulances raced back and forth between the airport and city hospitals, ferrying the injured.
The Kinshasa General Hospital was overwhelmed by the number of dead and injured, said staff who declined to give numbers. Distraught relatives milled through the hallways and clustered around the emergency room hoping to get news of the missing.
U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe, also speaking in New York, said the world body had offered to help transport the injured.
The explosions set off a brief panic in Kinshasa, where people who live near the airport fled their homes fearing that Congolese rebels might have reached the capital.
In Brazzaville, the capital of neighboring Republic of Congo, residents gathered along the Congo River to watch flames from the explosion shooting into the air.
Officials in both countries urged residents to remain calm.
The airport was sealed off by soldiers and police.
It was not clear if the explosions were related to Congo's 20-month civil war, which the government of President Laurent Kabila has been fighting with a variety of rebel armies backed by Uganda and Rwanda.
The civil war in Congo, formerly called Zaire, erupted a year after Kabila overthrew the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
A cease-fire agreement was signed July 10 by Kabila and his allies _ Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia _ and by Rwanda and Uganda, who are backing the rebels. The main rebel factions signed on in the weeks that followed.
But fighting continues with the various sides blaming each other for violations.
On Friday, Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the Uganda-backed Congolese Liberation Movement, reported new fighting with government troops in an apparent violation of a new cease-fire.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), April 14, 2000.
...and here's another one.
Death toll mounts after explosions at Congo airport
By KAMANGA MUTOND, Associated Press
KINSHASA, Congo (April 15, 2000 6:44 p.m. EDT
Red Cross workers dug through the ruins of a collapsed hangar Saturday in a desperate search for survivors, a day after a mysterious chain of deadly explosions struck the international airport at Kinshasa.
Official radio put the death toll at 10. But reports from Belgium, Congo's former colonial ruler, said between 40 and 50 people had been killed - including victims hit by debris up to several miles away. Hospital officials said 216 were seriously injured.
The death toll could rise much higher, with customs officials saying more than 100 people could still be trapped in the hangar.
There were conflicting explanations of what caused the blasts Friday at Kinshasa's N'Djili international airport, ranging from a short circuit to a soldier dropping ammunition while unloading a plane full of weapons.
"First there was the big explosion. Then we saw rockets and shells flying. People were running everywhere but the hangar collapsed before many could get out," said Kalala Ngoy, a 42-year-old customs inspector. "Soldiers were running. The bosses were running. Poor people were running. We were all the same in the face of death."
The government initially declined comment on the disaster, but Saturday night Congolese Information Minister Didier Mumengi said the government was setting up an investigative commission to look into the cause of the explosions.
The explosions occurred on the first full day of a new cease-fire signed last week by the parties in Congo's 20-month civil war.
President Laurent Kabila toured the wreckage-strewn site Saturday morning and was seen speaking with several victims' families. Congolese state radio said about 10 people were killed.
In the jumbled remains of a hangar used by customs and tax officials to handle incoming cargo from Europe, local Red Cross workers used crowbars and shovels to dig for survivors.
Soldiers did not allow journalists to talk to the rescuers, and it was unclear whether any victims were found alive. Limp bodies were seen pulled from the twisted wreckage of steel and concrete.
The corpses were dragged to another hangar where four Red Cross trucks waited to carry them off.
Several customs officials feared more than 100 people - both officials and customers collecting cargo - had been trapped inside. A wall and ceiling of the hangar collapsed when a munitions depot behind it exploded during the chain reaction of blasts.
An airport postal facility also collapsed but it was uncertain whether there were people inside at the time. Many other buildings and several planes were also damaged. Practically the only building left unscathed was the airport control tower.
Family members swarmed onto the wreckage-strewn tarmac in hopes of hearing news of loved ones.
Antoinette Kaku, a 20-year-old student, looked dazed as she searched for her father, Mutombo Ngeleka, a baggage handler at the airport.
"I am losing hope. He always comes home straight after work but since last night we have heard nothing. I must continue searching until I find him," she said weakly.
The reasons behind the blast remained murky.
Congolese state-run radio reported that a short circuit sparked a fire around noon Friday, triggering a series of explosions at the munitions depot that shattered all the windows of the airport terminal.
An airport official, however, said the fire and explosions were triggered by a soldier who dropped ammunition while unloading a plane full of weapons. That explosion set fire to the fuel depot, from which flames spread to the munitions depot, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The explosions, which lasted more than an hour, killed and injured an undetermined number of people in surrounding neighborhoods up to several miles away.
Henri Kisweko saw his older sister, 42-year-old Honorine Malueka, get hit by a piece of flying metal as she went into her small brick and cement home next to an open-air butcher market in Massina - some three miles from the airport. Mulueka died Friday night. The shrapnel impact caved in a wall of the house, overturning a bed and a table.
"The government must help us bury our sister," Kisweko said. "She was a market seller and gave money to the family. We are too poor even to buy her a casket."
In a statement released overnight, Belgium's Foreign Ministry said at least 40 people were killed at the airport and many more were injured. Other victims were found in a neighboring residential area.
Belgium's private television station, RTL-TVI, however, quoted officials in Brussels as saying about 50 people were dead and some 200 injured.
It wasn't clear if the explosions were related to Congo's 20-month civil war, which the government of President Laurent Kabila has been fighting against several rebel groups.
The explosions set off a brief panic in Kinshasa, where people living near the airport fled for the city center, fearing that rebels might have reached the capital.
The airport was sealed off by soldiers and police. Airline officials said all international flights over the weekend to and from Kinshasa were canceled.
-- Rachel Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 16, 2000.
...and BBC says "the fire in the ammunitions depot was sparked by an electrical problem."
Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK Heavy death toll in Kinshasa
Reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo say that at least 50 people were killed and more than 200 injured in explosions at the international airport in Kinshasa on Friday.
The bodies of victims are piled up in the city's only morgue, waiting to be identified.
At the Mamayemo general hospital, distraught relatives have been waiting in hallways and clustered around the emergency room hoping to get news of the missing.
It is still not clear what caused the explosions - which happened on the first day of a ceasefire in the country's civil war - but officials say they were not set off deliberately.
Witnesses report that they were caused by a fire in the ammunitions depot, which official statements indicate was sparked by an electrical problem.
The customs area of the airport was completely destroyed by the blasts and the windows of the main buildings blown out.
Eyewitnesses said the explosions went on for about 45 minutes.
Customs inspector Kalala Ngoy told the Associated Press news agency a hangar collapsed as people tried to escape.
"Soldiers were running; the bosses were running; poor people were running," he said.
"We were all the same in the face of death."
A large quantity of unexploded ammunition is still reported to be scattered around the airport
Government spokesman Didier Mumengi said in a statement that the airport's technical capabilities had not been damaged, and that the government had set up an investigative commission to look into the causes of the fire.
Meanwhile, the airport remains closed for clean-up operations, and international airlines have cancelled their flights to Kinshasa for the next few days.
Mr Mumengi said the incident started with a warehouse fire. He made no reference to earlier reports of a military plane crash.
"A fire in one of the warehouses located not far from the military airport spread until it reached an ammunition cargo in transit," he said.
Reports on Friday suggested the explosions had happened after a military aircraft crashed into a petrol tanker.
The incident occurred on the first day of a ceasefire in the DR Congo's civil war, which pits President Laurent Kabila's government and foreign allies against rebels in the north and east, backed by Rwanda and Uganda.
Local people fled their homes and closed up markets and shops, fearing rebels were attacking the airport.
Rebels in the north-east said fighting had persisted on Friday, blaming government forces for the continued hostilities.
-- Rachel Gibson (email@example.com), April 16, 2000.
This is very interesting....
-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), April 16, 2000.