Mar. 6 (GIN) – An armory packed with shells, rockets, and other munitions exploded with an ear-splitting blast in a densely populated neighborhood of Brazzaville, the Congolese capital. At least 246 people were reported killed in the disaster. Firefighters fought the blaze for close to 48 hours.

The huge blast seen on national television showed the destruction of every single building within a 1.25 mile radius, including a tank regiment, three schools and two churches that had been conducting their Sunday services nearby.

Survivors in Brazzaville described the scene as ‘apocalyptic’ as twisted sheets of metal littered the streets while churches, hospitals and homes were left in ruins.

Congo’s director-general of health, Prof. Elira Dokekias, told AP that the capitals’ hospitals were treating 1,340 injured people and that 60 were awaiting urgent surgery.

The fire appeared to threaten another depot just 100 yards away holding even more lethal weapons, which could also explode.

The spread of munitions stockpiled in residential areas was the subject of recent U.S. State Dept. fact sheet “Dangerous Depots: A Growing Humanitarian Problem”. Since 1990s, catastrophic explosions at arms storage facilities have increased around the world with some 218 known incidents resulting in more than 4,700 fatalities and nearly 5,700 injuries. The proliferation of weapons worldwide is likely to increase the problems of finding safe storage for dangerous arms.