Israel sending medical team to Equatorial Guinea after deadly blasts

Joint Health Ministry-IDF delegation to include intensive care physicians, pediatricians, other specialists, after accidental explosion at military camp kills at least 105

This TVGE image made from video shows smoke rising over the blast site at a military barracks in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, March 7, 2021. (TVGE via AP)
This TVGE image made from video shows smoke rising over the blast site at a military barracks in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, March 7, 2021. (TVGE via AP)

Israel on Tuesday announced it was sending a medical team to Equatorial Guinea, following deadly blasts at a military camp in the African country.

The joint Health Ministry-Israel Defense Forces delegation will include intensive care physicians, pediatricians, and other medical specialists, according to a Health Ministry statement.

The ministry said the National Security Council requested the delegation be sent to Equatorial Guinea.

The Israeli announcement came after Spain, Equatorial Guinea’s former colonial power, said an aid plane will leave Madrid on Wednesday with drugs and medical equipment. The United States embassy also said Washington is sending experts to help with damage assessment and reconstruction.

The death toll from the explosions climbed Tuesday to 105 with the discovery of seven more corpses.

A total of 615 people were injured in Sunday’s accidental blasts at the Nkoa Ntoma camp in the country’s economic hub Bata, which devastated buildings at the compound and houses in surrounding districts.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the oil-rich country with an iron fist for 42 years, once again blamed the military for “negligence” in stocking ammunition so close to residential areas.

This TVGE image made from video shows people carrying a victim away after a blast site at a military barracks in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, March 7, 2021. (TVGE via AP)

He had previously spoken of stubble-burning by local farmers setting off the tragedy.

State television channel TVGE said seven more bodies were found on Tuesday, buried under rubble.

On Monday, it said more than 60 survivors had been found trapped under debris, including two children, aged three and four.

TVGE has shown images akin to a war zone, with rescue workers and civilians struggling to remove bodies from smoking ruins.

Obiang on Tuesday said the officers in charge of the camp, which houses special forces and gendarmes and their families, had “been careless.”

Dynamite is normally “stocked very far from people and kept

President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo at the Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Oct. 24, 2019. (Valery Sharifulin, TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP)

underground,” he said.

The defense ministry said blasts caused by heavy-caliber munitions caused “shock waves which totally destroyed numerous homes nearby.”

The only Spanish-speaking country in sub-Saharan Africa, Equatorial Guinea is one of the most closed-off nations on the continent.

Bata is home to 800,000 of the country’s 1.4 million people, most of whom live in poverty despite the country’s oil and gas wealth.

The capital is Malabo, on the island of Bioko.

Its ruler, Obiang, is the world’s longest-serving sitting president and is frequently accused by rights groups of abuses.

Adding to the difficulty in understanding the full scale of the tragedy, air and sea links have been shut off for weeks due to coronavirus restrictions.

Only military and government aircraft have made the trip over since the explosions.

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