The Health Ministry said it had confirmed 17 dead and 420 injured. A doctor in Bata, a former capital, told the state-run TVGE television network that at least 20 were dead.
The news reports noted that the explosions occurred in the vicinity of a military armory in Bata but information on what happened was unavailable. Footage showed patients streaming into hospitals. A news anchor pleaded with viewers to donate blood.
Equatorial Guinea is a small and impoverished country wedged between Gabon and Cameroon on Africa’s Atlantic coast. It’s divided into two parts: the mainland, home to Bata, and an island called Bioko, about 150 miles to the northwest, where the capital Malabo is located.
The country’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, has been in power since a coup in 1979, and is known for his repressive rule, a vast network of corruption and lavish vanity projects. The world’s longest serving president, he secured a sixth term in 2016, claiming 99 percent of the vote.
While the country is rich in oil and timber, the majority of its million and a half citizens is poor. By some measures the rate of extreme poverty is 40 percent.
Numerous coup attempts have been staged against Obiang over his decades in power, but in those instances, news coverage has been heavily curtailed. On Sunday, state-run TV showed uninterrupted coverage of the blasts throughout the afternoon and evening.
Blasts at arms depots have been seen in central Africa. Nine years ago, around 250 people were killed in a similar series of blasts on the outskirts of Brazzavile, the capital of the Republic of Congo.
Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo are both ruled by leaders who have spent decades in power, and who often use their militaries’ might against their own people to suppress dissent.
Bearak reported from Khartoum, Sudan.