Vatican News English Africa Service
“On Sunday 7 March, around 1 pm, we heard a loud noise, as if the house was shaking. A few minutes later, another noise was heard, which caused the destruction of the hotel’s doors and windows, located in front of our house. We started to receive calls and messages telling us what had happened, namely, an explosion at the Nkuantoma Barracks, which is some 6 km from where we live.” This is the testimony of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Anne. They live and work in Bata, the economic capital, and most populous city of Equatorial Guinea.
Aid agencies report more than 107 deaths, 119 injured – the majority of whom are children. UNICEF’s rapid assessment indicate that shelter and protection were the most significant challenges. Several children had lost family members and remained unaccompanied. Efforts to locate other family members were ongoing.
Solidarity of the Church and ordinary people in Bata
Agenzia Fides reports that the Sisters of Charity of Saint Anne immediately mobilised to help victims.
“In less than two hours and without knowing exactly what was going on, we made our way to the general hospital as we had been informed that this is where the wounded were being taken. We loaded our car with medical supplies and offered our full support. In all this difficult situation, we have seen the rapid response of support and solidarity from the population. Some 200 health workers rushed to this hospital: Volunteers, nurses, doctors, medical students - all came face to face with something they did not understand,” said the religious.
Worse than a horror movie
“Many parishes and Catholic schools have made their structures available to accommodate and feed dozens of homeless families, and we, as a health centre, continue to treat dozens of people suffering from injures as well as the psychological consequences of these explosions,” affirm the Sisters.
Other religious, in Bata, described the aftermath of the explosions as “experiencing something worse than a horror movie.” There is still need for humanitarian assistance to feed and house those who have lost homes.
specialised nature of ammunition safety
Due to the emergency’s nature, several specialised agencies with expertise in ammunition safety have deployed to Bata under the coordination of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC).