Seychelles declares state of emergency after huge explosion, flooding

Over 100 were injured in the explosion in the industrial area of Providence

Seychelles explosion floods Damaged infrastructure is seen following an explosion at the Providence industrial area in Mahe | AFP

The tiny Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles declared a state of emergency Thursday after a huge blast at an explosives depot occurred after deadly flooding hit other parts of the country. Three people died in the flooding, the president said.

More than 100 were injured in the explosion in the industrial area of Providence, around 7 km (4.3 miles) southeast of the capital, Victoria, on Seychelles' main island of Mahe. The blast destroyed buildings and flattened trees in the vicinity. National TV showed people at hospitals and clinics bloodied with injuries after the blast. No deaths were reported from the explosion.

The blast happened around 2 am Thursday morning and followed heavy rain and flooding late Wednesday night, which mostly hit the northern part of Mahe. Houses were flooded, parts of roads were washed away, and the water caused landslides in some areas.

Two of the people who died in the flooding were trapped in their home, authorities said.

President Wavel Ramkalawan announced the state of emergency in a statement from his office, ordering schools to close and people to stay at home in the nation of just over 100,000 people to give emergency services and other essential workers the space to do their jobs. Emergency services were on the scene of the explosion.

The blast caused "massive damage" and the floods caused major destruction, the statement from the president's office said.

Ramkalawan told reporters later Thursday that three people had died in the heavy rain and flooding. He said 125 people had injuries, mostly minor, in the blast at Providence and had gone to medical centre for treatment. Many buildings had been partly or completely destroyed by the blast, which left a large crater.

The damages are huge and many families have moved out of their homes for security reasons, Ramkalawan said. He said he was shocked to see the aftermath in Providence and surrounding areas. It was as if we went through a war, he said.

He said four containers of explosives caused the blast and an investigation would be held into whether the construction company that was housing the explosives had taken proper precautions with their storage.

At the moment we don't really know what happened," said government minister Jean-Francois Ferrari, who visited the blast site. "There was this huge explosion in the commercial zone.

The explosion was so, so big, so loud," he said. We have not recorded any deaths as a result of this explosion. All in all, it's a disaster, but everything is under control.

Authorities said the international airport and ferry services between islands were still operating to allow people to travel if they had to during the state of emergency.

Seychelles is a major tourist destination and is an archipelago off the east coast of Africa. It is the continent's smallest country by area and population, with the most populous island of Mahe only about 26 km (16 miles) long and 17 km (10 miles) wide.

Much of the East African region has been hit by heavy rainfall and deadly flooding recently. Hundreds have died across the region and millions have been displaced since the rains began in late October.

Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan have all experienced raging floods that have been made worse by the El Nio phenomenon. More than 130 people have died in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.


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