DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – Thousands of people crowded a stadium for safety Thursday after a military ammunition depot exploded and showered the city with a series of blasts, killing at least 25 and prompting a stampede getaway.
In the mayhem of residents fleeing the blasts, more than 150 children lost track of their parents, and officials appealed for mothers and fathers to report to the stadium to reunite with their offspring.
"People were just running, so some children were lost in the mobs of people. Now at the centers we are trying to get them connected with their relatives," Red Cross worker Julius Kejo said.
President Jakaya Kikwete promised an investigation into the explosions Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the second fatal military ammo dump explosion in Tanzania's commercial capital in less than two years. An accident at a Dar es Salaam military base in 2009 killed more than a dozen people.
Several houses and a school were leveled during the latest blasts, which sent huge orange bursts into the night sky. Debris showered parts of the city 10 miles (15 kilometers) from the Gongola Mboto military base where the depot was located.
On the base, 23 weapons storage facilities, five vehicles, two soldier dormitories and the general store were destroyed, said Lt. Col. Kapambala Mgawe.
When the explosions hit, thousands of people living in nearby neighborhoods fled. Families scattered, separating parents from their children.
Hidan Ricco, the head of Tanzania's Red Cross disaster management team, said there were about 200 unaccompanied children at the stadium, some of whom are only months old. A city official appealed for parents to find their children.
"We can't figure out how these children ended up here," Ricco said. "We don't know where are their mothers."
The blasts closed the city's international airport, near the Gongola Mboto military base, though it opened later Thursday. Some 4,000 residents were evacuated to the national stadium in Dar es Salaam, which lies along the Indian Ocean in East Africa.
Selina Chacha, 30, was looking for two her boys — ages 8 and 10 — at the stadium.
"I'm so sad that my children are still missing. I have been running up and down looking for my them but they are nowhere to be found," Chacha said, whose house was only 1 mile (2 kilometers) from the blasts.
Stella Philip, 23, was at home cooking when the explosions began around 9 p.m. Her daughter Habiba Saleh, 8, who was playing outside at the time, is missing.
"I have not seen such deafening blasts in my life," she said. "After the blasts everyone ran for his life."
The president visited the site of the blasts and tried to assure a still-jittery public that no more explosions would happen.
Felician Luchagula, a 32-year-old health-related development worker, said he heard blasts beginning at around 9 p.m. Wednesday. They continued for several hours.
"People are getting scared of what may happen to them. People are scared that if they live near a military base it might happen again," he said.
Straziuso reported from Nairobi. Associated Press writers Malkhadir M. Muhumed in Nairobi, Kenya and Carley Petesch in Johannesburg contributed to this report.