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Chad Ammunition Depot Fire Kills 9, Injures Dozens

 

A DEVASTATING fire at a military ammunition depot in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, has killed at least nine people and wounded dozens more, officials reported on Wednesday. The death toll is expected to rise as many of the 46 injured are in critical condition.

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The blaze, which erupted late Tuesday, triggered powerful explosions that sent shockwaves across the city. By Wednesday, the scene revealed gutted buildings, a large crater in the military camp, and unexploded shells scattered on the ground.

Chad’s Health Minister Abdelmadjid Abderahim warned that the toll could increase, noting the severe injuries sustained by many victims.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but government spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah indicated it was not criminal. Initial reports suggest several deaths occurred within the ammunition storeroom. ‘There are fewer deaths and less damage than we foresaw,’ Koulamallah said, adding that the evacuation efforts by soldiers minimised civilian casualties.

The inferno lit up the Goudji area, home to the army’s largest ammunition depot, for several hours before subsiding after midnight. Explosions were felt up to seven kilometres away, and flames were visible from a distance.

Resident Kadidja Dakou, who lives nearby, described how the blast blew off her roof, forcing her and her children to seek refuge in the streets. ‘The roof of our house was blown off by one of the explosions,’ she told AFP.

Authorities have cordoned off the area, which remains under heavy security. Regional Planning Minister Mahamat Assileck Halata assured reporters that the fire was contained and deminers were working to secure the site. ‘I call on people to remain calm and avoid handling any objects that may have landed,’ he said.

President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno expressed condolences to the victims’ families. Among the deceased was a six-year-old girl who perished when a shell fell into her room. “She burned to death; we couldn’t get her out,’ her cousin recounted.

The depot is located near the international airport and a French military base. French forces confirmed that no French personnel were injured in the incident.

Chad’s president, who secured 61 percent of the vote in a controversial May 6 election, faces ongoing challenges. Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno was declared transitional president by a military junta following the death of his father, Idriss Deby Itno, in April 2021. Chad remains a crucial player in combating jihadist movements in the Sahel region.

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