Jesus Nguema Nguema spent 12 desperate hours waiting for news of his family after a series of explosions on March 7 in Equatorial Guinea’s city of Bata destroyed his neighbourhood while his children were at home.
One week on from the blasts that killed at least 107 and wounded hundreds, the father-of-seven, who was not at his home at the time of the blasts, recalled his relief.
“By some miracle, my children were able to get out of the furnace and save themselves,” he said, describing how the shockwave caused a fire that tore through the apartment building where he and his family lived.
Now they are among the 900 people being housed in temporary shelter, including unaccompanied children that have lost their families, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said.
Every district in the coastal city of around 250 000 people shows signs of damage from the explosions at an army barracks which destroyed hundreds of buildings, blew off roofs, and toppled trees.
The government has blamed the disaster on negligent handling of dynamite stored at the base, and on fires set by farmers living nearby. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has promised to bring those responsible to account.
It is the Central African country’s worst tragedy in recent memory. The former Spanish colony has been run by president Nguema, Africa’s longest-serving leader, since 1979.
Survivors are still reeling from shock at the scale of destruction.
“When I got to the neighbourhood, I found everyone was traumatized,” said Federico Faustino Nse, another Bata resident, recalling how he rushed home after hearing the blasts.