DAKAR, Senegal — A series of explosions attributed to mishandled explosives at a military base rocked a city in the central African nation of Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, killing at least 20 people and injuring more than 500, the authorities said.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said that fires on farms neighboring military barracks in the city of Bata had detonated dynamite and other munitions being stored there. He blamed “negligence and carelessness” of the unit in charge of the explosives for the disaster.
The country’s ministry of health and social welfare declared a health emergency and said many were still missing under the rubble.
Video from the city captured scenes of people digging for victims, as thick smoke wafted over the debris-strewn landscape. Others fled through the streets, some with suitcases and children in hand underneath a darkened sky.
As firefighters sent jets of water toward the flames, the scarred and twisted remains of metal roofs littered the ground.
The health ministry said that rescue workers were bringing the injured to at least three hospitals in the city, and officials appealed for blood donations.
Pickup trucks were loaded with survivors, Reuters reported, and driven to the front of one hospital — where some victims could be seen lying on the floor.
The health ministry of the county, an oil producer located on the west coast, posted updates on its Twitter account.
“Health emergency in the Mondong Nkuantoma area of Bata as a result of big explosions at the military barracks located in that area,” read one. “There are thought to have been deaths and many missing under the rubble.”
Mr. Obiang appealed to the international community to help, pointing out that the country was already suffering as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the fall in oil prices. Equatorial Guinea is one of the biggest producers of oil in the African continent.
“The shock waves from the explosions caused great damage to almost all the buildings and homes in the city of Bata,” said Mr. Obiang.
Ruth Maclean reported from Dakar, and Marie Fazio from New York.