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Sunday, 3 February, 2002, 05:47 GMT
Setback for Nigeria relief efforts
Coffins stand ready for sale outside the Ikeja mortuary in Lagos
Bodies are still being found a week after the disaster
The Nigerian Red Cross has temporarily suspended relief operations for victims of last week's munitions explosions in Lagos, blaming the army for trying to seize relief materials.

Patrick Bawa, spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross Society, said a temprorary warehouse inside the Ikeja army barracks had been locked up.

Children waiting eagerly for food at a displaced people's camp
Many of the missing are young children

"We have closed shop. The military ordered us to hand everything over and we could not do that," he said.

Red Cross officials were meeting with military leaders and relief organisers to try and resolve the issue, he said.

Some reports said soldiers were angry that too much relief was going to civilians.

The suspension came as the number of people known to have died in a stampede that followed the massive explosions passed 1,000.

"From all the figures I have seen, as more bodies have been found over the last few days, the toll is now over 1,000 people, mostly children," said Lagos Home Affairs Commissioner Musiliu Obanikoro.

Most of those who died were trampled to death or drowned in a canal complex as people panicked and tried to flee the blasts.

Previously, officials had said that at least 700 people were known to have died.

Mr Obanikoro said more bodies were still being recovered from the canal system, but added: "Thankfully, the numbers now are slowing."

Click here for a map of the area

"We have almost completed the search for the bodies in the swamp," Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu told Reuters.

About 350 people are still missing, but the International Red Cross hopes that many will either be found at relatives' homes or in two camps for the displaced now sheltering thousands of people.

Fire hinders relief

Red Cross efforts to help those made homeless by the extensive devastation had already received a setback when a fire broke out at its main depot in the area on Friday night.

The cause of the blaze is unknown, but a Red Cross official, Abidun Orebiyi, said the damage to food and materials vital to the relief effort was estimated at about $300,000.
People look at a collage of the tragic events following the explosions in Lagos
Women look at a collage depicting the tragic sequence of events

The Red Cross has appealed to Nigerians for immediate donations of food and clothes to help those in the displacement camps.

The Organisation of African Unity has donated $100,000 to help the victims.

The Nigerian Government and relief agencies have also been intensifying efforts to help the homeless.

Fury at authorities

Both the government and the army have been strongly criticised over the disaster.

Residents of Lagos have directed their anger against Nigeria's army for storing munitions in a densely populated area of the city.

The army has promised to investigate, but many political leaders blame the military. They have set up two independent inquiries.

Hundreds of Nigerian soldiers whose homes were destroyed in the inferno vented their anger on Vice President Atiku Abubakar earlier this week.

He was forced to abandon an attempt to address the soldiers after they jeered and pelted his car with water bottles.

The soldiers complained at delays in clearing up unexploded bombs. Some alleged that relief had gone only to officers.



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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos
"The public mood is one of anger with the government"
Senate deputy chairman Ibrahim Mantu
"The army should know it's inhabited by civilians"
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Africa
Nigerian troops' anger boils over
28 Jan 02 | Africa
Eyewitness: Canal deaths
28 Jan 02 | Africa
Eyewitness: Lagos blast
29 Jan 02 | Africa
In pictures: Lagos explosions
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