Tanzania arms depot blasts kill at least 17

A series of blasts levelled arms depots at a Tanzanian army base and killed at least 17 people, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said Thursday, in the second such incident in two years.

The blasts, which the prime minister said also left at least 145 people wounded, went off inside the Gongo la Mboto army base in Dar es Salaam late Wednesday and destroyed several arms and ammunition depots.

"By this morning, there were 13 bodies at Amana hospital, two at Temeke hospital and two more at Muhimbili national hospital," he told parliament in a session aired live on state radio.

Pinda said he had convened an emergency security meeting over the blasts and added that the country's armed forces were investigating the incident.

Pinda, who said the death toll could rise in the coming hours, added that some 4,000 people residing in the army base's vicinity fled their homes and had found shelter in a large stadium.

The blasts started going off on Wednesday at around 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) in one ammunition depot and quickly spread to other arms depots in the same military base.

Two nearby residential houses and a secondary school were destroyed by the explosions, the prime minister said.

There was no indication of foul play and such incidents have happened before in Tanzania.
In April 2009, 26 people were killed and hundreds wounded by a string of powerful blasts at an arms depot in Dar es Salaam, which officials said were accidental.

The series of explosions showered the entire city with debris and shrapnel, causing a panic among the population and bringing back memories of the 1998 bombing of the US embassy.

The 2009 blasts in the Mbagala district, located around 13 kilometres (eight miles) from the city centre, set off rockets, artillery and mortar shells, and displaced thousands of people.

According to a US state department briefing released in the aftermath of the 2009 disaster, the frequency of such incidents in arms depots across the world is increasing.

"Poorly maintained, improperly stored, or inadequately guarded conventional weapons and munitions pose as significant a humanitarian challenge as the well-known threat of landmines and other explosive remnants of war left uncleared from past conflicts," it said.

"The frequency of such incidents has increased as urban populations have expanded outward from city centers to the vicinity of what were often previously isolated depots," it explained.

The US state department estimated that such incidents resulted in more than 4,700 fatalities and nearly 5,700 injuries between 1995 and 2009.
 

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