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Several days on, residents of Bata are still coming to grips with the full scale of a tragedy that has killed at least 105 people and injured more than 600 others.
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Drone footage aired on state television showed block after block of public housing in the coastal city either completely destroyed or close to it, the remnants of their roofs and walls strewn across the neighborhood's dirt roads. "There are many children without parents," said a teacher in Bata, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from the authorities in the tightly-controlled central African country. "In the long (term) what do we do with those children?" The reclusive government blamed the explosions on fires set by farmers living near the military base and the negligent handling of dynamite stocks by the military unit guarding them.
It has decreed three days of national mourning from Wednesday, declared Bata a catastrophe zone, unblocked 10 billion ($18.19 million) CFA francs for the response and appealed for international aid. Firefighters continued to comb the rubble on Wednesday for bodies as onlookers wept, state television showed. The authorities appealed for donations of blood and basic goods.
A five-year old girl was pulled on Wednesday from the rubble of a house in the military camp where the blast occurred, Equato-Guinean media AhoraEG said.
Officials have been forced to turn to refrigerated containers to store bodies, said the teacher and Alfredo Okenve, a human rights activist who lives in exile in Europe. Okenve said his information indicated the number of deaths was between 150 and 200, significantly higher than the government's official toll of 105. Virgilio Seriche, an official at the information ministry, denied that bodies were being stored in containers and said authorities were providing up-to-date information about the number of confirmed deaths. "The reliable data is what the government is publishing about this incident, not what comes from other sources," he told Reuters.
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