Chad ammo depot blaze kills nine, wounds dozens

A fire at a military ammunition depot in Chad's capital killed at least nine people and injured dozens more.


A fire that tore through a huge military ammunition depot in Chad’s capital N’Djamena killed at least nine people and wounded dozens more, officials said Wednesday, warning the toll could rise.

The blaze, which started late on Tuesday, sent powerful blasts into the night sky and the exploding ordnance shook buildings miles away.

Chad’s Health Minister Abdelmadjid Abderahim told journalists that the toll was in danger of rising as many of the 46 wounded were in an “extremely serious” condition.

A visit to the scene Wednesday revealed unexploded shells and other munitions scattered on the ground and the burnt-out wreckage of what looked like military vehicles.

Government spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah said the cause was not “criminal” but an investigation was under way.

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According to initial indications, several people died in the ammunition storeroom, he said.

“There are fewer deaths and less damage than we foresaw. We were expecting dozens and dozens of deaths,” Koulamallah, who is also foreign minister, told AFP by telephone. “There aren’t many civilians who lost their lives.”

The sky burst into flames above the Goudji area — where the army’s largest depot of ammunition is located — for several hours before tapering off and finally ceasing after midnight.

The explosions shook buildings as far as seven kilometres (four miles) away and the flames were visible from far off.

“The roof of our house was blown off by one of the explosions,” said resident Kadidja Dakou, who lives in the Amsinene area near Goudji.

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The 36-year-old and her three children took refuge in the street alongside their neighbours, for fear their houses would collapse, she told AFP by phone.

“The soldiers had time to evacuate the vehicles, heavy weapons etc. and were able themselves to take shelter,” Koulamallah said.

Burned

Regional Planning Minister Mahamat Assileck Halata told reporters at the scene that the fire was “contained” and the situation was under control.

Nearby, gutted buildings could be seen and at least one huge crater was visible in the grounds of the military camp.

“I call on people to remain calm and serene and to avoid handling any object that may have landed,” Assileck said, adding deminers were at work.

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President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno during the night offered his condolences to victims’ families.

The grieving family of a six-year-old girl sat in front of ruined houses in Amsinene after a shell fell in the room of the child, killing her, the family told AFP.

“She burned to death, we couldn’t get her out” of the house, her cousin, who did not want to be named, said.

Iron fist

Authorities had cordoned off the area with a heavy security presence, where thick red smoke hung in the air long after the blasts stopped.

There are multiple homes in the neighbourhood that is the site of the depot, which lies near the international airport and a base where French troops are stationed.

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The blaze “caused explosions of ammunition of all calibres”, an official with the French forces told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“For the moment, no French military personnel have been wounded”, he said.

Chad’s president officially won 61 percent of a May 6 vote that international NGOs said was neither credible nor free and which his main rival called a “masquerade”.

Deby was proclaimed transitional president in April 2021 by a junta of 15 generals after his father, president Idriss Deby Itno who had ruled with an iron fist for 30 years was shot dead by rebels.

Chad, one of the world’s poorest nations, is considered vital in the fight to stop the march of jihadists through the Sahel region.

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– By: © Agence France-Presse

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