Published February 17, 2011
ZANZIBAR, Tanzania – A military ammunition depot in Tanzania's largest city blew up overnight in a series of explosions that leveled homes, killed at least 20 people and wounded about 145 others. Thousands ran for their lives from blasts that were felt 20 kilometers (12 miles) away.
Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said several houses and a school were leveled during Wednesday night's explosions, which sent huge orange bursts into the night sky over Dar es Salaam. Debris showered parts of the city 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the Gongola Mboto military base where the depot was located.
It was at least the second such ammunition depot explosion at a military base in Dar es Salaam since 2009.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Kapambala Mgawe said 20 people have been confirmed killed. He said the explosions were accidental but gave no details. A hospital administrator, Mussa Wambura, said about 145 people were injured, some "badly hit by the blasts."
The blasts closed the city's international airport, near the Gongola Mboto military base. Some 4,000 residents were evacuated to the national stadium in Dar es Salaam, which lies along the Indian Ocean in East Africa.
When the explosions hit, thousands of people living in nearby neighborhoods fled, said Julius Kejo, a Red Cross worker helping at a shelter for displaced people.
"It was panic. It was many people moving away, because it happened in the night, thousands of people moving," Kejo said. "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."
The military on Thursday continued to move people away from depots where munitions that haven't detonated are stored, Kejo said. "Even today they are telling people to get out of the area," he said.
Mgawe said some buildings were still burning on Thursday.
Selician Luchagula, a 32-year-old health care 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.
An accident at a Dar es Salaam military base in 2009 killed more than a dozen people.
Associated Press reporters Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya and Carley Petesch in Johannesburg, South Africa contributed to this report.