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07.03.2012 Congo

UN emergency team deploys to republic of Congo to assess damage and impact of recent explosions

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GENEVA, Switzerland, March 7, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has deployed a four-member United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC) to Republic of Congo to support the authorities and the UN team there, after explosions at an ammunition depot near Brazzaville killed at least 200 people and injured some 1,500 more on 4 March.

Catherine Bragg, Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that, “this disaster is a sad reminder to us all of the complex challenges that technological disasters pose – in particular in an urban context. It is critical that environmental considerations are factored into humanitarian response to ensure we can provide effective relief.”

The team, composed of experienced humanitarian and environmental emergency responders, plans to undertake a comprehensive site assessment, which will include sampling and analysis to determine possible exposure. The full extent of the blast radius has not yet been determined, but has destroyed surrounding houses, buildings and transportation infrastructure. People face additional threats from scattered unexploded ordnance, as well as possible contamination to the surrounding area.

Ms. Bragg also said that “emergencies such as this are, unfortunately, part of a growing trend in areas with dense population growth and rapid urbanization. People are often exposed to a greater number of environmental and humanitarian emergencies when they live in vulnerable areas close to military or industrial sites.”

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