Arms Cache Explosion 2012
On 4 March 2012, an arms depot located at the Regiment Blindé military barracks in Brazzaville, exploded due to a short circuit which inadvertently ignited a store of tank shells. The Minister of Defence ruled out all possibilities of a coup-de-tat.
The magnitude of these explosions resulted in 250 fatalities, approximately 2 315 injured individuals and 13 800 homeless people. Poor sanitary conditions in and around the blast area provoked a cholera outbreak. Procedures were put in place to move other arm depots to outer areas in order to avoid another future calamity.
Gift of the Givers Response:
Our response to the terrible effects of the accidental ammunition dump explosion in Brazzaville, the capital and largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was an all-out and fully-inclusive mission, carried out in two phases - the second being on behalf of the South African Department of International Relations and Co-operation.
As the only relief agency to respond to the DRC's plight, we deployed a comprehensive Search and Rescue Team, inclusive of four sniffer dogs, to the site of the explosion and additional medical teams to two hospitals to take on life-saving surgeries. More teams went to the area's largest refugee camp. In this phase of our operation and apart from the search and rescue and medical interventions instituted, we distributed R8 million worth of emergency supplies. This took the form of tents, food, high-energy protein supplements, clothing, blankets and hygiene packs.
The second phase of this mission, saw the Department of International Relations and Co-operation make available an additional humanitarian aid package and the sponsorship of two aircraft enabling us to transport and disseminate a further 70 tons of supplies to victims of the explosion. This package included more food, high-energy protein supplements, tents, blankets, water purification tablets, clothing, detergents and disinfectants. In addition, sophisticated operating theatre equipment, surgical instruments, wound dressings, antibiotics, sterile disposable surgical supplies, X-ray films, mosquito nets and general medicines were made available.
Meanwhile, our 20-member medical team continued working at two hospitals, managing three operating theatres and making crucial interventions at two refugee camps. Finally and having delivered six aircraft loads of emergency humanitarian and medical relief, we were requested by hard-pressed Non-Government Organisations based in Brazzaville to send trauma counsellors to the shattered region to assist the shocked, distressed and distraught survivors of the explosion come to terms with the disaster. We provided a 10-member team, which partnered with the local university and interacted with psychologists and social workers, counselling members of the public, delivering courses on trauma counsel techniques and upskilling local practitioners.