State Department Completes Emergency Response to Clear Explosives Following Munitions Depot Disaster in the Republic of the Congo
The U.S. Department of State has successfully concluded clearance of unexploded munitions in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. Working in close coordination with national authorities and with technical experts from the United Nations and specialized non-governmental organizations, a team of civilian technical experts helped dispose of nearly 20,000 items of damaged and unstable munitions, allowing some area residents to return home and safely rebuild.
The March 4 explosions at a munitions depot in Brazzaville resulted in more than 250 deaths and over 2,000 people injured, as well as forcing tens of thousands of families from their homes. Unexploded ordnance was thrown as far as three kilometers from the blast epicenter, posing lingering hazards to emergency responders and complicating recovery efforts. While the cause of the blasts remains unknown, this tragedy highlights the challenges posed by “dangerous depots” around the world and the need for national governments to properly maintain, store, and safeguard their weapons and munitions inventories.
At the request of the Congolese government, the Department of State immediately deployed a seven-member team of civilian technical experts from its Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to assist Congolese authorities with the initial phases of emergency response and post-blast clean-up, with support from MAG International, a non-governmental organization specializing in clearance of unexploded ordnance.
Since 2008, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has deployed QRF teams to Cyprus, Libya, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts, Tanzania, Uruguay, and Vietnam to address emergency issues related to the removal or mitigation of abandoned or otherwise at-risk conventional weapons and munitions, landmines, and unexploded ordnance.
To learn more about the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement’s Conventional Weapons Destruction efforts worldwide, visit 2009-2017.state.gov/t/pm/wra