Maputo armoury to be moved after blasts (Mozambique)

Maputo - Mozambican President Armando Guebuza announced on Friday that the Malhazine armoury near Maputo would be relocated, following a series of explosions there which killed at least 72 people, Vista News reported.


Speaking on a visit to the affected townships Guebuza said the government "will give all possible help to the affected people".

"The armoury will have to be relocated. It will be relocated," Guebuza told reporters on Friday.

He said his government would assess the extent of the destruction and help those affected.

Guebuza said: "Naturally we have to accept what has happened and work to resolve the problem."

The council of ministers was expected to meet on Friday to assess the situation and decide on what type of help would be extended to victims.

Official media said 72 people had been killed and more than 360 injured in the blasts that were felt more than 15km from the scene.

Independent sources said there were still more bodies not yet identified and more injured people who had not been accounted for.

Residents have called for the head of the defence minister.

Guebuza cancelled his scheduled visit to South Africa where he was scheduled to meet his counterpart President Thabo Mbeki to assess the situation.

Joaquim Mataruca, spokesperson for the ministry of defence, said that while the authorities were continuing investigations into the blasts they were currently blaming it on "severe heat generated by high temperatures".

"We have been experiencing high temperatures of 37 and 38 degrees in the past months and this accumulation could have resulted in the explosions," said Mataruca in a live transmission on state television channel, TvM.

He appealed to civil society to help the infected and for civilians to donate blood in the hospitals.

"We are preoccupied with normalising the situation and gathering information on the figures of the affected," he said.

Mataruca said the blasts were from "obsolete" arms which consisted of bombs, mines and ammunition in a warehouse at the armoury.

However, he said the ministry was in the process of destroying the obsolete munitions.

"Recently we destroyed more than 100 tons of obsolete arms and we will be destroying more in the near future," he said.

As early as 6am on Friday relatives and friends milled outside the outpatients section at Maputo hospital looking at a list of patients posted by authorities on a wall.

There were 302 names of people whose ages ranged from two years to more than 40.

Lucia Daniel, 39, a mother of two who was injured in the blasts said she heard a "loud explosion" before she was hit by flying fragments.

Daniel was treated and slept at the hospital and on Friday morning she was sitting in the out-patients waiting for family to take her home.

She was heavily bandaged around the head and her clothes were covered in dried blood.

In central Maputo glass from broken windows littered the streets and workmen had not swept the rubble by 6.30am.

Appearing separately on national television President Guebuza and Defence minister Tobias Dai appealed for calm.

"We are preoccupied by the situation and we call for calm. Our defence forces are working to assess the situation. We call upon all our citizens to be calm until the situation is rectified," said Guebuza in a five-minute speech on the national television channel TvM at 7.40pm.

"We do not have enough information on the blasts and again we call for calm until the government gathers more information on what happened," he said.

Guebuza said his government lamented the occurrence of the heavy blasts which lasted more than three hours.

Televisions stations continued to transmit live from Maputo Central Hospital where they said "every five minutes" ambulances and private vehicles brought in victims.

Earlier Dai said in a television broadcast that army engineers were "working to see what had caused the blasts".

The explosions which started around 4pm could still be heard from Maputo city, about one kilometre from the scene, around 7pm.

Traffic police continued to erect roadblocks for vehicles travelling in the direction of the blasts.

Most people had to walk to the townships near the armoury as they were worried about their families and houses.

Live images, shown on TvM, the national broadcaster, showed flames coming from the scene.

This is the third time that the national army armoury, which was built by the Russians, has gone up in smoke since 1985.

In September 1985 12 people were killed, while in January this year, three people were seriously injured in blasts at the armoury. At the time authorities attributed the blasts to high temperatures.

Clouds of smoke could be seen from the Maputo city centre coming from the armoury which is situated in Malhazine Bairro, in a residential area about a kilometre from the city centre.

Office workers in the city climbed onto top floors of buildings in Maputo to get a view of the area where clouds of smoke could be seen. ' Sapa

Von: 23.03.2007

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