Death toll from Congo arms depot blast rises to over 20

Reuters

KINSHASA (Reuters) - The number of people known to have been killed by an explosion at an arms depot in Democratic Republic of Congo has risen to more than 20, the U.N. mission in the country said on Saturday.

The blast occurred on Friday when a lightning strike sparked a fire at the depot near the diamond mining hub of Mbuji-Mayi, Congo's third largest city.

"Over 20 people died, more than 50 were injured and many houses destroyed by the blast, causing desolation in the city," said a statement released by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUSCO.

A senior government official had previously estimated that at least 10 people were killed.

"I have instructed our office in Mbuji-Mayi to stand by and support local authorities in dealing with the situation," said Martin Kobler, head of MONUSCO.

Congo, a country the size of Western Europe in the heart of Africa, is home to around 65 million people. Many live in poverty despite its wealth of natural resources such as copper, cobalt, gold and diamonds.

(Reporting by Pete Jones and Emma Farge; editing by Andrew Roche)