As many as 200 people were killed on Sunday when an ammunition dump exploded in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo, according to multiple media sources.
The blasts were felt several miles away, across the Congo River, in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the BBC. Hundreds more people reportedly have been injured in the explosions.
In Kinshasa, the BBC's Thomas Hubert said residents of east Brazzaville fled when the blasts began.
Citing Defense Minister Charles Zacharie Bowao, state radio reported the explosions had been caused by a fire in the arms depot at the Regiment Blinde base in the riverside neighborhood of Mpila, the BBC said.
Bowao appeared on national TV to urge calm in both Brazzaville and Kinshasa, according to the BBC. The explosions that you have heard don't mean there is a war or a coup d'etat, the defense minister said. Nor does it mean there was a mutiny. It is an incident caused by a fire at the munitions depot.
According to sources at the central hospital, we're talking of around 200 dead and many injured, Betu Bangana, head of protocol in the president's office in Brazzaville, told Reuters by telephone. Some people are still [trapped] in their houses ... They're saying the entire neighborhood of Mpila has been destroyed.
Fleeing residents said houses in the blast area had been flattened, according to Reuters. I saw someone being carried to hospital with their intestines hanging out. They had been hit by a shell, one witness told Reuters as he was leaving the blast zone.
The main blasts were followed by a series of smaller explosions, Reuters reported. Hours after the main blasts, a plume of gray smoke still hung over the city, a witness in Kinshasa said.