Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Deadly Explosion in Maputo

Last Thursday started off like a normal day. JJ and I went to work. At about 4:30 pm the Science Fair at the American International School was underway. The event was busy and the kids seemed to be excited about showing off their science experiments. I was handing out programs to the parents and celebrating some of the kid's inventions and experiments. There was a dog feeder, ant farm, rocket launcher and much more. We were outside and started hearing noises that resembled thunder and you could feel the ground slightly shaking. We were not really sure what was going on. Then it happened....a huge explosion that you could see clearly in the air! I had NEVER experienced anything like that my entire life. It was like a scene from a movie. The sky over the explosion turned pink and shades of orange followed by a cloud of smoke.

We all panicked. Some of the kids started to cry. I was so perplexed. I immediately called JJ to see if he knew what had just happened. He told me that he had heard that the Mozambican military had planned to "clean out" their armory and were getting rid of old weapons. Okay, that could be the case. It could be a controlled explosion...

Well, the Science Fair quickly ended and I went home. As JJ and I got home we heard another strong explosion. Our building shook and I thought that our windows were going to break. We don't have a local TV channel at home so we started listening to the radio. All sorts of rumors were stirring, but it was clear that Maputo was in a panic.

As I sat at home, I thought....could someone have hit Maputo with a bomb. I thought...oh, no...they have bombed the US Embassy. Just as I thought that, we heard (well thought we heard) that the USAID building had collapsed, been hit or something. We still didn't know what to make of it.

We knew that most of the blasts were coming from the direction of the armory and we knew that Elizabeth - our "empregagda" - lived nearby. We called her and could not get through. Finally we were able to talk and she told us that part of her roof had come off and some windows had shattered, but she and her family were okay.

The next morning we woke up and we heard the real story. For some unexplainded reason (maybe heat, maybe poor maintenance) the Mozambican arms depot had started to explode and shoot off some of its weapons. 93 people had been killed. We couldn't believe it. How could this happen? Check out CNN.com for stories and pictures - Click here.

Can you imagine sitting at home watching TV and a bomb lands in your house? That is exactly what happened to many people. There was a house where all 13 family members died. The picture above shows that house, where a bomb landed and killed everyone. JJ went out with co-workers from the embassy to assess the damage and was able to take some pictures.

Well, it has been almost one week since the incident and life in Maputo has gone back to normal...normal for some of us. But many people were affected, not only with damage to thier house, but hundreds of people were hurt and many people are having to deal with the consequences of severed limbs or other terrible injuries.

This was a stupid accident, something that should have been taken care of when a similar, but smaller incident occured in January of this year. This is what happens when you have a very young country just learning how to run the government and with limited resources. Remember the Mozambican government has only been in existence a little over 25 years.

Check out www.cnn.com for more information.

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