On Sunday, a catastrophic series of explosions in and around a military base in the port city of Bata in Equatorial Guinea claimed at least 98 lives. According to the country’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the explosions were a direct result of the improper storage of military stockpiles of dynamite.
By Monday, many nearby hospitals were overwhelmed with patients being rushed in from the surrounding area. The explosions had dropped buildings, turned over cars, and shaken the city to its core. Today, hundreds of rescue workers are still in the city, turning over rubble, looking for injured, and driving victims to the nearest hospital with an open bed for them.
As of the time of this writing, 600 people are thought to have been injured. The country’s Health Ministry has stated they believe the official death toll will rise as rescue crews continue to find bodies among the rubble, and as some of the injured don’t pull through.
President Obiang in a press release blamed the explosion on the improper storage of dynamite at the Bata military base. Laying the fault squarely at the feet of the military, he noted that the explosion occurred after a fire set in a field by nearby farmers got out of control and reached the base. Some activists have contended that this incident shows the country’s healthcare system is outdated and in need of an overhaul.
Equatorial Guinea is a wealthy nation, thanks in large part to its oil reserves. President Obiang is the world’s longest-serving president, having assumed the role in 1979. While the country only has a population of around one-and-a-half million, it also has Africa’s third-largest reserve of oil.
Now, the opposition party contends that President Obiang has mishandled this crisis and that this incident is the latest in a long line of scandals relating to corruption. “Seeing the injured arriving in taxis and vans, without ambulances, is a sufficient indicator that Equatorial Guinea is in very bad hands,” an opposition party called Convergence for Social Democracy, said. “There is no government.”
Many have noted similarities between this explosion and a similar one that occurred in Beirut in August of 2020. That explosion, which killed 210 people and caused $15 billion worth of property damage, was the result of a warehouse fire catching a store of ammonium nitrate. Both explosions have been blamed on the improper management and storage of explosives.