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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 22:53 GMT
Lagos blasts leave 600 dead
A woman screams as the body of her child is recovered
Many of those who drowned were children
At least 600 people are now known to have been killed as a result of huge explosions at an army munitions dump in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos.

Many of the dead are children and babies who drowned in a canal as thousands of terrified residents fled the Isolo district near the scene of the blasts on Sunday.


We have received 152 bodies this morning and most of them are children

Titilayo Akinogun,
Isolo General Hospital
Bodies have also been found inside the military compound housing the depot. Others died as artillery shells ripped through densely populated suburbs.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has visited the scene and ordered a full military inquiry into what caused the explosions.

Stampede

The force of the blasts in the Ikeja area near the airport shook buildings and shattered windows in the city centre, 15 kilometres (nine miles) away. Most of the fires were finally extinguished early on Monday morning.

Click here for a map of the area

An army spokesman told the BBC that the blaze had started in a market next to the munitions dump.


This barrage continued for hours as people, pet dogs and other animals ran helter-skelter without a definite direction

Eyewitness Phil
Nick Braley, who was less than a mile away from the barracks, told BBC News Online that shells could be seen exploding in the sky. The noise was like thunder, he said.

Another eyewitness, who gave his name as Phil, said he was at his parents' house when he saw a "mighty mushroom plume", which was followed by "an ear-shattering blast that set off car alarms on the usually quiet street".

"This barrage continued for hours as people, pet dogs and other animals ran helter-skelter without a definite direction," he said.

Canal of death

The barracks are in the middle of a crowded residential area, with one of the city's busiest transport interchanges just outside the gates.

Fire at Nigerian army dump
High-calibre weapons exploded in the fire
Thousands fled in panic from the army quarters and nearby residential areas as shells exploded across the city.

The BBC's Dan Isaacs says that in the chaos and confusion people fled for what they believed to be the safety of a banana plantation, but then slipped down into a swampy canal.

As they struggled for their lives more people surged down into the water.

Nigerian barracks are like towns in themselves. Soldiers live there with their wives and families and traders often set up stalls inside.

Unexploded shells

Hospitals in the area say they are overwhelmed by the disaster.

A senior nurse at the Isolo General Hospital said they had received 152 bodies during the morning. "Most of them are children. The youngest of them is four," said Titilayo Akinogun.

"More bodies have been taken to other hospitals," she said.

Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu is reported to have arrived at the scene to supervise the rescue effort.

Our correspondent says the market was gutted, a nearby church completely destroyed and a hospital damaged. A school also took a direct hit.

Unexploded shells are still lying on the streets.



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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"Most of the dead died in the canal"
The BBC's Robert Parsons
"Fear is giving way to anger"
Aimuagbonrie Obinyan, Lagos Fire Services
"The situation is under control"
Deli Alake, Commissioner of Information
"The belief is that it could have been avoided"
See also:

28 Jan 02 | Africa
Eyewitness: Canal deaths
28 Jan 02 | Africa
Eyewitness: Lagos blast
28 Jan 02 | Africa
In pictures: Lagos explosions
28 Jan 02 | Africa
Nigeria military under fire
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