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Guinean capital reels from deadly blast at oil terminal

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By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guineans should brace for power cuts, the government has warned, as the country grapples with the aftermath of a deadly explosion at an oil terminal in the capital Conakry that destroyed fuel tanks and forced hundreds to flee damaged homes.

Fourteen people were killed and 190 injured in the blast at the West African nation’s main oil terminal, which rocked the Kaloum district in downtown Conakry in the early hours of Monday.

In its first update on the extent of the damage to the terminal, the government said 13 fuel tanks were out of service while five tanks were unaffected.

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“The government informs the population that due to the destroyed fuel stocks, the electricity supply may potentially be affected by outages,” it said late on Monday.

Most of Guinea’s power plants, particularly those supplying the capital, run on diesel fuel.

Earlier, firefighters had battled to contain the blaze with towering columns of flames and black smoke visible from miles away. Neighbouring countries, including Senegal, have sent emergency workers to support recovery efforts.

The extent of the fallout from the blast is not yet clear or whether mining operations will be affected in the world’s second-largest producer of bauxite. Guinea is not an oil producer and relies on imports of refined products, which are mostly stored in the Kaloum terminal and distributed via trucks across the country.

Residents of districts near the depot described their panic when the shockwave ripped through the air, shattering windows in the middle of the night.

“We saw something in the sky, and suddenly a huge explosion that released unbearable heat. I immediately ran to avoid being hit by the objects zipping in all directions,” said security guard Sekou Sall in his neighbourhood, where some houses were reduced to rubble.

Sall said he had seen someone he knew weeping over the body of their twin brother, who was killed in the street by the flying debris.

Fear of further blasts or the risk of remaining in damaged buildings drove hundreds of people to seek safety elsewhere in the city.

Some cautiously returned on Monday afternoon to survey the damage and salvage some belongings.

Clutching a toddler with a bandaged head, grandmother Mariama Soumah said her family only had time to save themselves when their small house started to collapse around them when the blast hit.

“Suddenly we heard a loud explosion. If we hadn’t left in time, we would have died,” she said in Coronthie district, one of the capital’s poorest and worst-affected by the explosion.

(Writing by Anait Miridzhanian and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Alison Williams and Alex Richardson)

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