Explosion, blaze at Guinea fuel depot leave eight deadMon, 18 Dec 2023 12:21:23 GMT

Eight people have been killed after a powerful explosion at the main fuel depot in Guinea followed by a fire that rocked the centre of the capital Conakry early on Monday.Schools were closed and workers told to stay at home as thick black smoke filled the sky. Residents fled the area where the blast occurred, images on social networks showed.The incident happened at around midnight (0000 GMT) at the state oil company’s main depot in the Kaloum district of Conakry, near the port.”Eight charred bodies were brought to the morgue of the Ignace Deen hospital,” a senior official at the facility said.Dozens of people were injured, a doctor and local residents told AFP.”It was a deafening noise that woke us up,” a resident told AFP. “The windows of our home and those of our neighbours were smashed. We managed to get away from the place,” he added.  Dansa Kourouma, head of the National Transitional Council (CNT) — the parliament appointed by the ruling military junta — said the fire had caused “extensive damage including loss of human life”.- ‘Solidarity, prayer’ -Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who seized power after a 2021 coup, called for “solidarity and prayer for the nation in this difficult time” while the results of an investigation ordered by the government are awaited.The government announced that schools were closed and urged workers to stay at home in Conakry and its surrounding area.At the end of the morning, the fire was still burning in the port district but less intensively.Dozens of civil protection vehicles and water company trucks were at the site, an AFP journalist saw. “Additional resources are being dispatched to contain the fire and minimise its consequences,” the government said.It also urged people in the immediate area “to move away from the site not only for their safety but to allow responders to operate safely”. Service stations would also remain closed and “in the coming hours, a progress report will be issued and an investigation will be launched to establish the cause and those responsible”” the government said.- ‘Thrown to ground’ -The cause of the fire was unclear, officials said, and its “scale and consequences could have a direct impact on the population”. A doctor and local residents had told AFP earlier that dozens of people were injured.”Dozens of injured people are arriving at two of Conakry’s main hospitals — Ignace Deen and Donka,” said Mamadouba Sylla, a surgeon at Donka hospital.”We heard a loud bang which threw us to the ground without understanding what was happening,” local resident Marietou Camara told AFP.”We prayed, hoping for God’s favour. Others didn’t try to understand, opting to head for the suburbs,” she added.The normally lively port district was quiet early on Monday, with some locals having left the central area and others staying indoors.”The power is completely cut off in the area,” resident Thierno Diallo, who identified himself as a customs officer, told AFP by telephone.Guinea has been ruled since September 2021 by a junta led by Doumbouya, who stormed the presidential palace with soldiers and overthrew civilian president Alpha Conde.Conde was Guinea’s first democratically elected president and took office in 2010 after decades of authoritarian rule. Doumbouya has promised to hand the reins of government back to elected civilians by January 2026.